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Practical Tips for Conducting the Termination Meeting

So the decision has been made to terminate an employee, and you are in charge of delivering the bad news.  As difficult as that may be for you, it will undoubtedly be more difficult and uncomfortable for the employee.
Below are a number of practical tips to reduce the stress, tension and potential liabilities associated with the termination meeting:
  • The termination meeting should be in a place separate and private from other employees.  This will help avoid drawing the attention of other employees and reduce the likelihood of interruption.
  • A “late afternoon” termination meeting may be of assistance, since the employee will not have to face other employees on the way out, particularly if the termination is to take effect immediately.  But consider the stability of the employee and consider whether he has “support systems” in place (e.g. family and friends), especially if you choose a Friday for the meeting.
  • Consider offering outplacement counselling.  For more difficult terminations or particularly sensitive employees, it may be appropriate to have the outplacement counselors on site.
  • If the employee is known to be highly volatile and potentially prone to violence, consider having security present and ensure you have an appropriate plan to respond to those concerns.
  • The termination meeting should be brief – no more than 5 to 10 minutes.
  • The termination meeting should be cordial and attended by two members of management and/or human resources.  Take notes contemporaneous with the meeting.
  • Conduct the termination meeting in a professional manner, but also attempt to accommodate the employee’s feelings and concerns.  Regardless of whether the employee becomes angry or upset, do not resort to harsh words or language.
  • Provide reason(s) for the termination.  However, do not engage in a debate.  The decision has been made.  Arguments should be avoided.
  • If offering a separation package, avoid a detailed review of the package at the termination meeting.  The employee will likely remember little of that discussion.  Do, however, tell the employee that the package is confidential and must not be discussed with others.
  • Have the employee immediately return all company property in his possession, especially keys, pass cards, credit cards, computers, cell phones / PDAs.  Have the employee also provide all passwords used to log onto, or otherwise secure, company property and/or documents.
  • Do not make the employee pack up her office immediately after being terminated.  On the other hand, do not restrict the employee’s ability to take home whatever personal belongings are needed.  Consider offering the employee the option of: (a) choosing a mutually agreeable time outside of normal business hours to attend the workplace to pack up his personal belongings; or (b) having the employer pack up his personal belongings and then have them delivered to his home.
  • Do not appear to be “escorting” the employee out of the workplace.  On the other hand, carefully watch the employee to ensure that he does not take any company property, including any electronic or paper documents.
  • Make sure that the employee is able to get home safely after the termination meeting.  Ask the employee if he is able to safely drive home.  Offer to arrange for a cab ride home for the employee or to call someone to pick him up.
  • Never spread any inaccurate or derogatory rumours to other employers, other employees or to the industry about the terminated employee.  It is generally recommended that communications, both internally and externally, about the employee’s departure be along the following lines:  “We wish to advise you that John Smith is no longer with ABC Co..  We trust that you will join us in thanking John for his past service, and wishing him all of the best in his new endeavours.”
The above list of tips is certainly not exhaustive, nor can it be applied universally to all employee termination situations.  We welcome your comments on the above list, including what you view as further practical tips for employers when conducting a termination meeting.

If you have any questions or would like more information on this topic, please contact Mary Lou Brady at or call 519-672-2121
Posted: June 4, 2012 by Mary Lou Brady | with 17 comments | Share This Link

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Mary Lou Brady

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Partner and avid book club member.  Truth be told, very little of her book club’s discussion is ever about the book!

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After several years of working towards a career in midwifery,  realized she had been focusing on the wrong kind of “labour”.

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While she likes to think she was recruited to the Labour and Employment Group for her experience and knowledge, the truth is, they needed a golfer.

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