You’re Fired!


Recent headlines have prompted me to share an excerpt from my book Employee Handbooks & “Must-Haves” for your business. Following specific, strategic steps can help you conduct a clean, concise separation with minimal or no risks to your company.

Unfortunately, there will be times when your employee will need to part ways with you. I have highlighted some fundamental “need to knows” when going through this uncomfortable time of releasing an employee from employment.

No Surprises

Employees should have received enough communication regarding their performance so that there termination is not a surprise. In my experience, employees often know when they have pushed the limit and when they are near termination. For example, while serving as a human resources consultant for a manufacturing plant that had an extremely high turnover I experienced many situations where employees hand over their company property before they were officially terminated to avoid the embarrassment of being terminated because they knew they should have been terminated due to the blatant violation of company policies.

Document, document, document!

Realtors often stress the importance of location, location, location. Human resources professionals and business owners scream the importance of documentation, documentation, documentation! Lack of documentation can create the most stress during a termination. The fear that comes from not knowing if you are doing the right thing or if the employee will retaliate almost always stems from not having the supporting documentation that shows that the employee is being terminated due to a violation of a written policy.

Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are a great opportunity to provide a two-way communication if the employee will participate in the interview. Exit interviews can be a valuable source of information beyond learning the reasons why employees are leaving your company. When exit interviews are done well, they can uncover issues that can be addressed before they turn into lawsuits – issues such as harassment, discrimination and workplace violence. They can also provide information on how to improve procedures and can identify the programs in the company that are highly valued. Exit interviews can provide you with honest, focused feedback that you can act upon in your own time frame.

The best time to conduct exit interviews is a day or two before the employee’s last day. Employees are more likely to be forthcoming with their feedback when they’ve worked through most of their notice period and are less fearful that their feedback will be reported back to their manager while they are still employed.

Please note that exit interviews are only appropriate for employees who made the decision to leave and voluntarily resigned.  Or, for employees who elected to retire, perhaps earlier than expected. The purpose is to gain insight into what factors led to the employee making that decision and to identify trends or patterns that may indicate changes that need to be made in the workplace. When an employee is terminated due to poor performance or layoff, the employee is likely to have hard feelings towards the company and may have a few choice words to share that will make him/her feel better but won’t provide constructive feedback.

Exit interviews may be conducted in a face-to-face conversation or by telephone with an objective representative for the company, preferably a Human Resources professional. Some managers may wish to conduct exit interviews with their departing staff, but employees are not likely to be very forthcoming. Other options include providing a written survey for the employee to complete or using a computer-based survey. Companies may want to consider allowing employees to submit their responses anonymously if they choose to do so, but this may make it more difficult to determine specific issues that may need to be addressed.

Ideally, Human Resources professionals who are trained in confidentiality and who are experienced in listening to employees’ concerns without getting emotional or jumping to conclusions should conduct exit interviews. If this is not an option for your organization because you don’t have an internal HR professional on staff, you may want to consider contracting with a Human Resources consultant to provide this service for you.

“Must Haves” to Remember…

·  Communication is key to avoiding surprises during a termination.

·  Lack of documentation is the biggest pitfall during a termination. Lack of documentation can mean the difference between winning and losing an employment case.

·     Use exit interviews from employees that exit voluntarily to obtain valuable information to improve your organization.

You Need an HR Partner

In closing, managing humans can be an extremely daunting task. If you are a small business with 10,000 employees or less, it is beneficial to have an on-site HR person on your staff to handle day-to-day questions and issues as they arise. Unfortunately, employees in administrative roles are usually not equipped to answer complicated human resources questions or make decisions based on knowledge of federal and state employment laws. I began my career in an administrative role and how much I did not know as I was providing advice and counsel to employees during that time should have frightened the entire organization! If you cannot afford to hire a full time HR person and/or HR staff, hire a consultant.

Get more tools and resources to protect and grow your business. Download Employee Handbooks & “Must-Haves” for your business: 2nd Edition Kindle Edition for only 99 cents for a limited time. You can also visit for more info.


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