As Human Resources professionals, we work hard to make sure that we hire great people and that they meet their potential as employees. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Maybe the employee isn’t quite as suited or prepared for the position as was hoped. Perhaps the associate has other priorities that take precedence over work. Maybe the associate is just not a fit. Whatever the reason, it is your responsibility, both to the company and to the employee, to complete the termination as smoothly and professionally as possible.
The termination of an associate is one of the most stressful of all HR management responsibilities, but if you’re properly prepared, you can handle this difficult situation with as much grace as possible, preserving the company’s professionalism and allowing the employee to retain their dignity.
How to Prepare
In order to prepare to terminate an associate, you need to be very clear about why the termination is happening and you need to be prepared to answer the employee’s questions.
For example, if the associate is being terminated for attendance, make sure that you have exact dates of absence. If the employee was excessively tardy, make sure you also have their time of arrival on the dates cited. If the associate missed project deadlines or was found to be using the internet inappropriately, make sure you are prepared to provide details. Take a few minutes to put yourself in the employee’s shoes and consider what questions you would have if you were in their position.
Another step in preparing for a termination is to have the correct people at the meeting. The employee’s direct supervisor should certainly be there, and possibly the supervisor’s manager. The reason for this is twofold. First, you need to send a clear message that the decision to terminate the employee is not a decision that was made by corporate HR alone. Second, you should have witnesses for the termination.
Finally, make sure that you have any documents needed for the termination ready ahead of time. Be sure to have the final disciplinary documentation ready to present to the employee. The employee should have the opportunity to review and sign the document, but they may very well refuse. Their refusal won’t make a difference to the fact of their termination, but you should note their refusal to sign.
You should also be prepared to provide a copy of any prior warnings or progressive discipline documents received by the employee for incidents that led up to the termination. If you live in a state that requires final earnings to be paid out immediately upon termination (a state like Massachusetts), you should be prepared with a final check. If you live in a state that requires a separation notice (like Connecticut), you should be prepared with that document as well.
When to Schedule the Termination
When an employee is terminated, they may get emotional and loud, possibly disrupting the department and causing a scene. If you expect the employee to behave this way, your best bet is to terminate the employee at the close of business during the last scheduled day of work for the week, which will usually be Friday afternoon.
Tuesdays or Wednesdays are also good. This will give you time to get all the paperwork in order, including the employee’s last paycheck, as well as alert all those that should be in attendance. This way, if the terminated employee has any questions like ones on COBRA or access to documents, there will be someone in the office to answer them vs. making them wait anxiously over the weekend.
No matter what day you decide to terminate, you should still take the associate into an office or conference room – some place where they can have some privacy. You should make sure that the other attendees are in place prior to the meeting to avoid any delays.
What Should Happen During the Termination
Once the employee is in place, clearly state the reason for the meeting. If you have followed a progressive discipline policy, the associate is unlikely to be surprised, but this does not mean that the associate will be happy with the decision. Be straightforward with the employee and explain that their employment has ended. Use a calm, steady voice and do not leave the impression that there is room for negotiation. The employee should be clear that this decision is final. Do not argue with the employee.
During termination, you should be clear and concise. Give the employee a chance to vent if necessary, as well as to ask any questions about final pay, upcoming bonuses, or benefits. Advise the associate as to how they will receive their final pay if they are not receiving it that day, and if they will still have access to view their paycheck online. Finally, you should verify that you have the associate’s correct address to make sure that your employee benefits company can provide COBRA information (if applicable) to the correct address.
Immediately After the Termination
If you can, give the employee the option of how to receive their belongings. You may need to greet them after work or on the weekend to allow them time to pack. You should be prepared to observe the removal of their personal property. It would be a good idea to provide boxes.
The employee may elect to have the contents of their office or desk sent to them. Alternately, you can have their personal belongings packed up during the termination meeting. This is especially useful in terminations that arise from an egregious violation of the code of conduct if you aren’t able to plan ahead for the termination.
During the termination meeting, have another member of the HR staff terminate the employee’s access to the HR system and other IT systems, as well as building access. If you have a contingency for former employees to access the system for benefits, their W-2, and other pay records, this should also be set up while the termination meeting is happening.
A good HCM software like Commonwealth Payroll & HR’s isolved can be instrumental in pulling together all of the documents necessary to complete a termination, as well as taking care of the behind the scenes work needed to move someone smoothly out of the system. For more information on how Commonwealth Payroll & HR can work with you on your strategic human resources planning, call us today at 877-245-1159.