How Should I Meet with an Employee Being Terminated?
The meeting with the employee being fired should take place in a private office or meeting room. Don’t fire an employee within sight of their coworkers. Again, you should aim to treat the employee with as much dignity and respect as possible given the circumstances.
Always conduct the dismissal meeting with at least one witness present. This person could be the employee’s manager, a human resources officer, or another senior manager. Having another person in the room helps to dispel any accusations by the employee that they were mistreated during the firing process.
Having another person present can also provide an additional calm voice in the room, as well as indicate to the employee that the decision to release them isn’t yours alone.
Pro Tip: Have some drinking water and facial tissues available in the office or meeting room. Stress causes dry mouth, making it difficult to speak. And, while there aren’t always tears in a dismissal meeting, it’s better to have tissues and not need them, than to need them and not have any available.
In terms of what you should say during the meeting, the cardinal rule is: the fewer words, the better. If you have warned the employee about their performance or behavior (preferably more than once), their dismissal won’t be coming out of the blue.
The primary message you want to convey is:
- The employee is definitely being fired—the decision has already been made. You can show respect and empathy during the meeting, but don’t use soft language that leads the employee to believe they can alter the outcome of the meeting.
- The employee’s performance/behavior does not meet the company’s standards. It is not necessary to go into greater detail, especially if you have issued one or more warnings to the employee. The less details given, the less ammunition there is for the employee to use to argue point-by-point why they should not be dismissed.
- You believe the employee will find a new job that is a better fit for them. This is an optimistic statement of support that can help the employee to accept the situation more gracefully.
Finally, explain to the employee what is going to happen next. This is when you should give them their
Employee Termination Letter
. Let the employee know how their final pay will be handled. Tell them they will be escorted to their desk to pick up their personal items, and then escorted from the building; emphasize that this is a company policy that protects them, their coworkers, and the company from any liability, and that it is not meant personally.
Do not forget to have the employee hand over any keys or access cards for the building. It is ultimately less embarrassing for the employee to give them to you during the dismissal meeting, than to have to come back later to drop them off.
If you suspect that a dismissal meeting is going to be highly emotional and confrontational, you may want to make an audio record of the meeting. You should inform the employee at the soonest opportunity that the conversation is being recorded to create a set of meeting minutes. Ideally, you should ask the employee for their consent to record the meeting, as some states have different rules concerning recording someone without their consent.
An audio recording may or may not be permitted in a court case, but it does offer some defense against an employee’s claim of mistreatment during the firing process. It also gives the employee some incentive to temper their emotions during the dismissal meeting.
There are several smartphone apps available for recording audio, which offers the simplest portable solution for wherever the meeting takes place.