Deciding it’s time to part ways with any member of your team, from teachers to office staff, is a tough reality. No matter the reason, from weak job performance to lack of budget, all employees deserve honesty, respect, and sensitivity while receiving the news. Here are a few rules you can follow to ease the pain when you have to let someone go and create a smooth transition for everyone—including the employees who are staying on.
1. Be mindful of their feelings.
First of all, confidentiality remains vital. No one should know what’s coming before it happens. Yesterday, the terminated employee still operated as a trusted member of your school. You need to continue treating them that way before, during, and after. Make sure you’ve consulted with human resources and figured out all the details of reserving a private space to break the news. And, be sure the space is in an area where they won’t have to walk past many other employees before or after the notification.
2. Consider the time of day.
When you notify the employee of termination is significant. You might think the end of the day or end of the week is best, but it’s not. While you should always offer on-site support (such as a human resources rep to go over the severance package), you need to consider that the terminated employee may have therapists, religious leaders, or other support they’ll want to seek out on their own. If they lose their job at the end of the day—especially late on a Friday—it delays access to help they may need more immediately.
3. Learn how to de-escalate.
As the shock of the news sinks in, the range of emotions could swing from happy to angry to numb. You must be confident that you won’t engage in anger or other outbursts. If you’re not, it’s imperative that you ask for advance training from HR. But usually when employees are treated respectfully, notified in private, provided with severance pay, benefits continuation, and job search support—their reactions stay within normal ranges.
4. Set your game plan.
Will they pack their belongings that day? Come back over the weekend or after hours? Will boxes be provided? How about transportation? Can they call a family member to help them? These are all things that you should have the answers to in advance so you can lay it out for the terminated employee, creating a smooth and easy departure for both of you.
5. Re-recruit your remaining staff.
As a manager, you need to assure your remaining staff that the separating employees were valued and that the organization is supporting them in the transition. You must also know how the void in the staff structure will affect their workloads and explain those details up front. And do what you can to remain highly visible in the days, weeks, and even months following, as employees will assume another reduction is in the works if there are too many closed-door meetings or you’re not available to them.
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