Fragile: Handle With Care

Over the past few years, we have noticed an alarming trend among participants in our career transition programs: they are upset and angry about their situation. Granted, these are people that have recently told me that their plans had been drastically changed. All the certainty that they felt had been turned upside down. They had a legitimate right to feel bitter, but the vehemence we have seen lately has been unusual. Folks are dwelling on the past and harboring negative feelings, making it difficult to move forward. One common denominator in the most severe of these situations was how they were treated at their separation meeting.

A Few Good Ideas

Avoid terminations on Fridays. Sending someone home to their family/friends for the weekend without the availability of a professional assistance outlet for several days can only breed self-pity and contempt. If you have to do it, then do it early in the day. If possible, terminate early in the week and pay the individual for the remainder of that week.

Avoid surprise. If it is not a personal performance issue, good communication is key to employee engagement, keeping them informed of the company’s financial soundness or lack thereof. Performance-based terminations should be preceded by a written Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), a process that includes regular meetings between the associate and his/her manager.

Be consistent. Having a policy outlining the steps and separation benefits for severed employees helps to alleviate fears. It also encourages consistency and clarity.

Terminate with dignity. Consider having a CPIBN counselor on-site to assist. A simple “hope and help” (hope for the future and help to get there) meeting with that counselor immediately after the event diffuses the situation considerably. Unless it is a massive multi-person RIF, security guards are unnecessary and add humiliation to an already difficult situation. Have boxes available and assist the individual in collecting personal items or giving them the choice of meeting you after hours to do that, or the option of mailing those items to their home. 

Again, make that the impacted employee’s choice. Your desires and those of other employees should be secondary to maintaining the separated person’s dignity.

These sensitive matters will be implemented more smoothly by thinking ahead and including CPIBN in planning your termination events. People leave with their dignity intact and move forward with their lives and careers.

Remember, departing employees could be your organization’s future employees or customers. How they are treated during departure impacts how they perceive and talk about you and your company.