By Corey Daxon
As companies continue to downsize, compassion, dignity and simply “doing the right thing” on termination day have taken on a greater importance. Fortunately many basic downsizing guidelines are becoming commonplace:
- Avoiding terminations on a Monday or Friday
- Having both the direct manager and human resources present for the termination
- Conducting the discussion in a neutral, private office
- Providing a pre-prepared severance document
As a participant in hundreds of terminations every year, I’ve seen progressive organizations continue to “raise the bar’ of compassion on termination day. While every termination is unique, following are five additional thoughtful but less obvious strategies I have seen implemented effectively:
- Provide direction versus choices
While empowering individuals who have just been terminated with choices may seem compassionate, this can actually be a counterproductive strategy. Asking someone to choose between going back to their desk to collect their belongings or not, meeting or not meeting with a career transition professional or a variety of other options can lead to additional stress and poor decisions during a termination. Asking someone during an emotional time to make choices regarding a process they are unfamiliar with is not the best approach.
The leaders conducting the termination need to carefully plan a compassionate strategy, lay out an agenda and provide clear direction regarding all of these decisions.
- Keep conversations brief
A termination discussion is not a performance review or a justification of the decision. It is the delivery of a difficult message and should be direct and informative. The terminating manager’s message should last two to three minutes, and HR representative’s discussion should last no more than five to 10 minutes. A lengthy discussion can lead to negative emotions and encourage additional debate that is not beneficial.
- Avoid an immediate office clean out
Experience has shown that co-workers witnessing a “clean-out” or watching a terminated employee escorted back to their office can be embarrassing. Alternatively if an individual is allowed to go back to their desk alone, tears, anger or anxiety can surface in front of ill-prepared co-workers. Bringing an employee’s immediate personal items (keys, coat, etc.) to the termination room and having them leave directly from this room can facilitate a much more dignified departure. Arranging another day during after-work hours to handle the emotional task of cleaning out their office is a better way of treating the employee with the respect they deserve.
- Utilize the expertise of a reputable Career Transition provider
Progressive companies partner with a career transition provider in the planning/logistics of termination day. Their experience and objectivity facilitates a more seamless and compassionate process. It is best for the employer to have a career transition counsellor on-site to meet with the employee immediately after they receive their notice. An experienced counsellor provides the care, assurance and support needed during this emotional and stressful time.
- Next steps coaching
Ensure that your career transition provider coaches the terminated employee on how they communicate their termination to their spouse, children or parents when they return home. How this message is delivered at home will impact how the message is received. Informing family about the severance and career transition support provided can greatly reduce stress and anxiety both on termination day, and during weeks of transition ahead.
Corey Daxon is the President and Managing Partner at Feldman Daxon Partners.
- On September 30, 2016