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Podcast: Personal Branding Strategies for Professional Triumph (with Daveeed Wagner)
March 25, 2024
Podcast: Encore Careers: Finding a New Vocation in the Second Half of Life (with Christine Burrows and Marc Sheinbaum)
April 8, 2024

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye: Parting Ways with Employees Positively

Whether you’re parting ways with them or they’re leaving you, separating from employees may conjure up images of stress, emotions, risk, and high costs. But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Leading with transparency and communication throughout the employee’s time with you may help soften the blow when one of you decides to end the relationship. By being open with employees about their performance and potential and encouraging them to be open with you about where they want to go next, you can avoid some of the shock and disappointment traditionally associated with parting ways.

Costs of a Traditional Notification Meeting or “Surprise Termination”

Aside from the unpleasantness of the conversation, there can be several costs associated with the traditional unexpected termination. The underperforming employee’s low productivity, disciplinary actions and warnings, creation of the separation agreement and other documents, and attorneys’ review of those documents can add up to a lot of lost time. Not to mention the time the managers and HR representatives spend stressing out about the upcoming conversation.

After the termination meeting, you may see costs from unemployment and lawsuits brought by disgruntled former employees. And there could be collateral damage as the employee’s team members wonder what happened and whether they might be next on the chopping block.

Tips for Traditional Notification Meetings

Those traditional termination conversations can be unavoidable sometimes. If you do need to have this type of meeting, here are some tips to help it go as smoothly as possible:

  • Beforehand, meet with the people who will be in the room (managers, HR professionals, etc.) to discuss how the meeting will go and who will talk about what. If any of them haven’t been part of a termination before, you might even roleplay to help them prepare.
  • Consider the space and time. Will you have the conversation first thing in the morning or at the end of the day? Is it going to be a virtual meeting, or will you be in person? If you’re in person, where can you talk that will create some privacy for the employee?
  • Show respect and humility; thank the employee for the work they’ve done.
  • Ask the employee if they would mind if someone packs up their personal belongings for them.
  • Give the employee a packet of information but offer to have a call with them next week after they’ve had a chance to digest and process it.
  • Understand that the employee might be angry. Allow for some listening time, but don’t get into an argument with them or let their defense go on for too long.

Increase Transparency and Communication

Being more transparent with employees upfront can ease the pain of terminations. Those employees may feel more cared about. Since they’re not leaving negative reviews or badmouthing you to everyone who will listen, your company’s reputation can improve. There may also be less fear among your remaining employees because they see the compassionate way their former colleagues are being treated.

Share feedback (or, as we like to call it, feed-forward) about what the employee should be doing differently. Consider offering assistance with career pathing and career assessments to your employees. You might even provide internal career coaches who can help employees navigate their career journey, whether that’s within your organization or not. Let employees know that you hope they’ll stay with your organization, but you’re also willing to help them if you’re just a stop on their journey.

Be transparent when something is going on with your business that may lead to terminations or layoffs. Offering outplacement to exiting employees is also a great way to communicate that you care and want them to succeed, even though it won’t be with you. You might let employees continue working with you for a little while as they look for a new position. Communication is also the key there – make sure you discuss the terms of that transition and have a way to keep each other informed about progress.

The ROI of Kind and Transparent Transitions

Sure, this all sounds nice, but why should your business care? There are lots of benefits to these open conversations and compassionate separations. Here are some of them:

  • It costs an average of 6-9 months of an employee’s salary to find and onboard their replacement
  • Open conversations can reduce some regrettable turnover (which in turn reduces turnover costs and stress)
  • Having some overlap between the exiting employee and their replacement can help ensure business continuity as there’s more time for training
  • Making employees feel comfortable talking to you about job searches can reduce a lot of wasted time – they won’t have to sneak around or call in sick to go to interviews
  • Negative word of mouth travels fast, and it doesn’t help with recruiting and retention; it’s better to leave exiting employees with a positive impression
  • It improves your employer brand

If you’re interested in assistance with planning for employee terminations or offering internal career coaching or outplacement, reach out to Purple Ink! We’d be happy to help you navigate these difficult situations.

Emily Miller
Emily Miller
Emily is Purple Ink’s Director of Marketing. She enjoys being able to exercise both her creative side and her analytical side, and as a Learner, loves helping to create new services and tactics and discovering the best ways to share them with the community.

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