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So you have worked to develop the best team that you possibly can develop.  You have continuously encouraged their development, have had an open door policy, and have made a daily effort to be approachable and someone to whom your employees can look up to.  Despite all of this, one of your people just doesn’t seem to want to be a part of the team and appears to actively resist your best efforts to help him succeed.  However necessary and justified it may be, it’s never easy to terminate an employee.  Despite this unpleasant fact, it is possible to do so in a completely professional manner without conflict.

It’s never easy to say goodbye.  The common perception is that being terminated is a horrible and uncomfortable experience for the employee, and while this may be true, the reality is that terminating an employee is one of the most stressful aspects of managing people.  Whether it’s due to performance issues or simply a matter of downsizing, it is not an experience that many managers want to find themselves in.

Don’t ever “wing it.”  Unless it’s a situation regarding some gross negligence or behavior that is endangering others, terminating an employee should be approached with the same level of planning as introducing new company objectives or a change in company policy.  You will first want to consult with the legal department to ensure you have all of your ducks in a row regarding any liability issues and to ensure you are following the proper company processes.  Next, you will want to schedule a meeting with the employee ahead of time and invite an HR representative to be present as well.  The only thing left for you to consider now is the timing and execution of the termination.

There is never going to be a “good” time for you as a Manager to deliver this unwanted news.  You can ponder and debate this with yourself for eternity, but invariably it is always going to be around some holiday, birthday, or other significant event around the office.  The best solution is to simply pick a date and mark it on the calendar, and notify the employee ahead of time of the meeting.  This may cause some anxiety with the employee, but it also may give the employee time to come to terms with the situation.  This will also give management ample time to begin the process of replacing the employee, or to begin working on the redistribution of responsibilities.

Remember the Golden Rule when it comes time to deliver the bad news.  Treat the employee as you would want to be treated in the same situation.  Don’t beat around the bush—simply thank them for their contribution to the organization and explain to them in succinct and relevant detail why this decision has been made.  By being up front and professional with the employee you will show them that there are no personal feelings involved, and that it’s simply in the best interest for them and the organization to part ways at this time.  Wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors and move on.  Allow them to collect any personal items and say goodbye to the team.  If there’s any worry about any proprietary information, access to the company computer network can be disabled during the meeting.

Discuss the termination with the team once the employee has departed the premises.  Stick to generalities by explaining that it was agreed that the organization and the employee part ways.  Don’t divulge any specific performance factors, as these should be company confidential.  Don’t allow time for the rest of the team to dwell on what has just occurred.  Simply give the news show the team by example that it’s time to go back to work.

It is never easy to terminate an employee, but by following these simple steps and treating the employee with dignity and respect, it doesn’t have to be a traumatic or dramatic experience.  Remember that you are simply performing your duties as a leader, and leading is not always pleasant nor easy.

David Klein is a leading Executive IT Recruiter & Headhunter with over 15 years industry experience.  As Manager of Recruitment Strategy for KDS Staffing, Inc., he has achieved industry-leading success. David has successfully led, trained and introduced many in the art of Executive Recruitment and Headhunting. If you or your organization would like to discuss hiring needs, contact David at 646-650-2833 or david@kdsstaffing.com.

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