How to Let Go an Employee in a Humane Way

Let go of employee that is female and she has her stuff packed in a box

Letting go of an employee can be a difficult decision for managers, what more executing it. Before companies welcome new people on board, the HR, recruiters, and hiring managers would’ve gone through some screenings about the candidates. Thus, finding that they have to let go of some employees isn’t only disappointing but also costly for the company.

There are some reasons why companies let go of employees. For example, if they damage the company’s property, refuse to follow its policy, commit grave misconduct, perform poorly, steal, own drugs or alcohol in the workplace, etc. But sometimes, companies go through difficult financial times and see cutting expenditure as the only way out.

Either way, do it humanely if you decide to let go of an employee. Regardless of the cause, it should still be dignifying and respectful.

Here are some tips to let go of an employee humanely:

Don't humiliate the employee

As a manager, you may feel shocked, disappointed, or angry knowing what your subordinate did that led to the termination. Don’t let your emotions run wild in the office, and drama isn’t necessary! Restrain yourself from shouting or confronting the employee in public. It does nothing good to anyone, especially for your reputation.

Remember, never humiliate the employee you’re going to let go of. This is because you’ll never know the damage you’ve caused to other employees. In addition, it will only make you look like an evil manager in the eyes of others. Someone who goes into rage has no empathy and is disrespectful (translation = not a good manager).

No surprise, please

A guy asking for a second chance after the employer has let go of employee

For a manager to call an employee out of the blue and asked to leave the company, it’s unpleasant, to say the least. Before you let go of employees, go through the case and analyse to see if it’s worth it to give them a second chance or if they’re able to show any improvements. Usually, HR will give two or three warnings before firing any employees. 

However, this depends on the situation. What about letting the employees decide if they still wish to stay in the company? Let them choose between a performance improvement plan (PIP) or leaving the company.

Do it face-to-face

No matter how busy you are, letting go of an employee via email or SMS is unacceptable. It’s inhumane. Set up an individual meeting with the respective employee about the termination.

Bring all supporting documents and evidence if necessary. Depending on the situation and your work relationship with the employee, you’re advised to do it in a closed room. Other options would be to do it over tea or lunch (to create a more relaxed atmosphere because everyone knows what would happen next).

Be honest and get to the point

Keep the meeting short and get to the point right away. There’s no point repeating what makes you feel dissatisfied, as the employee knows why or was already informed. The employee may ask you some questions. Remember to do your homework and prepare information about them:

  • notice period
  • final salary
  • payment for unused annual leave 
  • unemployment benefits

You can also invite an HR personnel to the meeting to answer the questions.

Be the first person to leave the room

Bart Simpson leaving the room like an employer should when they let go of employee

The employee may feel surprised, sad, or disappointed once the meeting is over. This would give that person some time alone to grasp the situation and process everything.

Be consistent

Here’s a hypothetical situation:

If you fired a subordinate because you found out that they had been watching movies during working hours for three days in a row, make sure you do the same with others. 

As a manager, you should stand firm with your policy and be consistent with your actions. This is so that your subordinates know that you’re treating them as equals. This will earn you their respect, and they will take the company’s policy (and you) seriously.

Give the employee enough time to plan the next chapter

Employees must give the company two or three months of notice when they resign. Therefore, companies should do the same as stated in the working contract. This is especially important for employees who have family, are the breadwinners in the family, or/and if they relocated to a new country for the role.

The employee would need time to plan for their next career move, how to settle bills, look for new schools for their children, get a new place to rent, and so on. They will also have ample time to finish any remaining task on hand, complete the handover process, and pass on the knowledge to the replacement.

Let the team knows

Employer having meeting with team after they let go of employee

Be transparent to the rest of the team and let them know that one of their colleagues will be leaving. Remember to focus on how the team can move forward instead of the cause behind the employee’s dismissal. 

Those working together with the employee could reorganise their workflow. This way the handover process would be smooth without unnecessary confusion. However, some employees may wish not to inform their team until a few days before the final working day (or on the day itself). You may respect their decision should their departure not create any significant shift in the workflow.

End it with a positive note

Don’t let the employee leaves the company on a bitter note. Tell the employee that you appreciate their contribution to the company, give some tips on job hunting and encouragement for their next endeavour.

Let the employee decide when to clear the desk and if they want to say goodbye to others. Alternatively, you can suggest the employee clears their desk on the weekend, during lunch break, or after office hours.

Things happen,

Letting go of an employee is unavoidable. As a manager, sometimes you need to make difficult decisions to protect the work culture, other employees’ performance, and the company’s growth. Don’t hesitate to let employees go but do it humanely.

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