Letting an employee go is one of the most difficult processes in the tasks related to human resources. The employee can react in different ways such as sadness, violence, among others, even if he or she has been warned in advance.
This is why it’s important to perform a termination -or exit- interview in the best possible way. Let’s take a look at the procedure to do a proper termination interview and a few recommendations about it.
How to perform a termination interview
- Plan the interview carefully. According to experts, this means:
- Schedule the meeting in one of the first days of the week.
- Make sure that the employee shows up at the precise time.
- You should never inform an employee through the telephone.
- Ten minutes are enough for the notification.
- The interview should be done in a neutral place and not in the office of the employee.
- Avoid Fridays, before holidays and vacation periods.
- Prepare beforehand the arrangements of employment, the personal record and the announcement, both internal and external.
- You should be available for some time after the notification.
- Have phone numbers ready for any medical or security emergency.
- Avoid small talk and beating around the bush. You shouldn’t waste time talking about the weather or any other meaningless topic. As soon as the employee gets to the boss’ office, he or she should be given a few moments to get comfortable and then inform them about the decision.
- Describe the situation. Briefly, in three or four sentences, you should explain to the person the reasons why the decision has been made to terminate their employment. For example: “the production in your area has gone down 5% and we still have quality problems. We have talked about these problems in several occasions in the last two months and the solutions have not been seen. It is therefore, necessary to make a change.”
You should also focus in the fact that the decision is final and irrevocable, that other internal positions were explored, that the management at all levels agrees and that all the relevant factors were taken into account: performance, workload, and others. The interview should not last more than 10 to 15 minutes.
- Listen. It is important to stay in the interview until the person appears reasonably calm and talks with freedom about the reasons for their unemployment, and the severance package that they will receive. You should avoid entering into a discussion, on the contrary, you will have to listen actively and get the person to speak through the use of open-ended questions, repeating their last comment and using silence or simply a gesture. It is convenient to use the following table of behavior reaction to evaluate the reaction of the person and decide which is the best way to proceed.
Table of behavior reaction
Reaction: Hostile and angry. The employee can feel pain, anger, and loss of breath.
- Summarize what the employee has said tentatively: “it appears that you are quite upset about this.”
- Avoid confronting the anger or getting defensive.
- Stay unbiased. Stick to the facts and give useful information to the employee.
Reaction: Defensive and negotiating. The employee may feel guilty, fearful, uncertain or skeptical.
- Make sure the employee knows that you are aware of how hard that moment is for them and for you as well.
- Do not get involved in any sort of negotiation.
- Tranquilize the employee regarding the future and connect this situation with the process of counseling.
Reaction: Formal and stuck to the procedures. The employee might feel revengeful.
- Give freedom to the employee for him or her to ask any question as long as it’s related to their case.
- Try to avoid marginal matters and discussions about “political” motivations.
- Keep a formal tone. This is a good way of getting into the role that the career advisor will play.
Stoic reaction: The employee may feel skeptical and altered.
- Let the employee know that you understand their impression, and tell them that the details will be arranged later if they prefer it that way.
- Ask if there are specific questions in that moment. If this isn’t so, inform them about the career advisor and put them in contact with him.
Reaction: crying and complaining. The employee may feel sad, sorry or ashamed.
- Give the person the opportunity to cry if it’s the case. Just offer them some tissues.
- Avoid tasteless comments such as “why are you crying? It’s not that important.”
- When the person regains their composure, inform them about the facts and explain to them the counseling process.
- Go through the terms of the severance package. Next, you should carefully revise all of its elements. You will have to describe the payments, benefits, access to support staff in the office and the way in which recommendations will be handled.
However, you should not imply promises or additional benefits to those stated in the package. You should not promise to see if “it’s possible” to do something. This would only complicate the termination process. The termination should have concluded by the time the person retires.
6. Identify the next step. The employee may feel disoriented and without knowing what to do. You should explain to them where should they go after the interview is over and remind them who should they speak to in the company in regard to questions about the severance package or the recommendations.
Related content: Read Jason Hanold’s “What is a human resource?”