Terminating an employee can be one of the most stressful parts of a manager’s job – especially, when the termination is related to a reduction in force (RIF). This news can sometimes come as a shock to the affected employee, making delivering the news all the more challenging. Although from a legal perspective you want to stick to the facts and come prepared with documents reviewed by legal counsel, it is important to consider the person sitting across from you – how this will affect his or her family, their livelihood, their sense of self. This news can be delivered in a compassionate manner while still remaining compliant. Here are a few strategies to consider when delivering the news.
Meet with affected employees one on one (not as a group) if possible. This is a very personal situation and can evoke an array of feelings and emotions from employees. The meeting room should be as welcoming as possible (not intimidating).
Know Your Talking Points
Prepare your discussion points ahead of time and decide who will lead the discussion (best to have a member of HR or at least a manager in the meeting with you). Explain the reasoning for the decision clearly. Review the key information (including health benefits, COBRA, 401(k) options, severance, outplacement services, employee assistance programs, unemployment process, job placement information, and the rehire process) with the employee and answer any questions the employee may have before leaving the company. You may want to offer to answer any questions that the employee may have over the next several weeks as the person may feel a bit shell-shocked and will have questions later once they have had time to process the news.
This can be a highly emotional time for your employee. Remember to treat your employee with respect and compassion – regardless of their reaction. Have tissues and bottled water in the room. Pre-arrange for transportation such as a car service for someone who is exceptionally distraught upon hearing the news. Give the person a choice regarding clearing out their desk…offer to help them do it that day or to pack up their belongings for them. You could even make arrangements for the person to come back to clear out their desk while their co-workers are not around if that is more comfortable for them.
Keeping your company out of legal trouble is of utmost important. Yet, equally important is how you treat your people who have dedicated so much time and energy into your business. The way in which you handle a RIF will get around (even more so today with social media). When the meeting is conducted with compassion and respect, the affected employee will look back and respect the manner in which you approached the situation (even though this may take some time to realize). Make sure you do the right thing, the right way.
Need assistance with preparing for a reduction in force or another challenging organizational change? Give us a call. We put our years of HR expertise to work for our clients every day on issues related to terminations, change management, and employee relations matters.