Termination Interviews: How HR Can Help

Termination Interviews:  How HR Can HelpTerminating employees is an almost inevitable part of running a business, and the reasons for involuntary termination are many — ranging from simple downsizing to poor performance, absenteeism, insubordination, and employee misconduct. But despite the fact that it’s a relatively common occurrence in the business world, terminating an employee is a task that many managers are ill-equipped to handle on their own. A human resources consultant can offer advice and assist with a termination, thereby helping to protect the company from liability and making an inherently stressful and difficult situation smoother and more comfortable for all involved.

Preparing for a Separation Meeting
Rule #1 for any termination meeting is: be prepared. A layoff or “reduction-in-force” is relatively straightforward, but if the termination is due to employee performance, make certain that you have documented the employee’s performance issues and the reasons for the termination. Meanwhile, necessary separation paperwork might include: the employee’s last paycheck, vacation/sick time calculations, severance pay, and benefits continuation forms, among other things.

In addition to having all of the paperwork in order, it’s wise to prepare your talking points ahead of time so you know exactly what you will say. Typically, you will want to explain the purpose of the meeting at the outset, and emphasize that the decision has already been made. You’ll also want to be prepared for the most common questions that a terminated employee may ask, like whether your company offers re-employment assistance. An HR consultant can help you prepare for these questions, and also role play with the manager charged with communicating the termination — invaluable experience for the manager in question.


The Employee Termination Meeting

Termination Interviews:  How HR Can Help In terms of the termination meeting itself, it’s advisable to hold the meeting in person and on neutral ground (in a conference room, for example). Also, it’s wise to have a witness in attendance — typically a representative from Human Resources or another manager-level employee — especially if you believe the individual in question might become argumentative or abusive.

Finally, be sure to treat the outgoing employee with dignity and respect by providing honest feedback on performance or the reasons for termination. If he or she is critical of the company or management, resist the urge to counter those arguments; typically it’s best to acknowledge remarks without agreeing or disagreeing.

Again, an HR consultant can provide advice regarding what to say and how to behave during a separation meeting, which can prevent difficult confrontations and minimize the risk of a discrimination claim or other legal claim.


What to Give and Get from the Employee

Last but not least, it’s helpful to prepare a checklist that covers what you need to obtain from an employee before he or she leaves the premises. Consider all company property, for instance, including cell phones, laptops, or building access cards.

Less obvious is that certain paperwork may need to be provided to the ex-employee after the fact, such as information pertaining to COBRA, or a separation agreement containing a severance package.

Meanwhile, you’ll also want to communicate the separation to the rest of your organization, along with the plan for moving forward.

Of course, none of the above is easy, and being apprehensive about the process is normal. But an HR consultant can provide the advice and support necessary to ensure that termination meetings proceed as smoothly as possible. If your business is in need of an HR Consultant, please contact us. We can be your guide through difficult conversations.

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