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No manager enjoys termination meetings. Many consider these meetings to be the worst part of their responsibilities. However, sometimes they’re necessary and ultimately best for both parties. When terminating an employee, organizations must follow strict protocol and remain compliant with state and federal laws. Failing to do so can put organizations at serious risk of being fined or sued. Do your clients have a termination protocol that protects them from these risks? Are they aware of these common termination meeting mistakes?

Blindsiding the Employee

Terminating an employee who believed their work was satisfactory because they didn’t receive regular feedback on performance can leave employees feeling blindsided. If an employee’s work is unsatisfactory, they should be made aware as soon as possible. These conversations can be difficult, but shying away from them isn’t doing anyone any favors. The employee will continue to underperform, losing the organization time and money.

Get ahead of performance issues as soon as possible by having open conversations about practical and actionable solutions to improve performance, attitude, or other matters. Make a specific plan with several time-based mini-goals and track their success. This way, if the issue persists, the employee will understand the reasoning behind management’s decision to let them go.

There are, of course, exceptions to this progressive discipline approach. Some exceptions include theft, physical abuse, and intoxication at work. These offenses would merit immediate termination.

@RealThinkHR knows all the secrets to a drama-free #TerminationMeeting. Avoid these common pitfalls: Click To Tweet

Making Excuses and Apologizing

Whether in a breakup or a termination, people can tell when they are getting a watered-down version of the truth, and they will likely ask for something more specific. Simply telling an employee “it’s just not working out” and then ushering them out the door is a cop-out. Be honest with employees during these meetings. Sugar-coated or vague reasoning could result in negative online reviews tarnishing the organization’s reputation.

Think your online review aren’t important? Think again.

  • A bad reputation costs a company at least 10% more per hire.
  • A colossal 74% of consumers have greater trust in a company if they read overwhelmingly positive reviews.
  • 69% of job seekers are likely to reject an employment offer from a company with a bad reputation.

The bottom line is that an organization’s online reputation matters. Individuals that have had poor experiences are far more likely to share online than those who’ve had positive experiences. Companies can’t afford to put their reputation at risk by not following strict termination policies.

Additionally, honesty truly is the best policy. Even if the employee disagrees with management’s reason for termination, they will at least be made aware of a possible character fault or weakness. They may even take this information and improve themselves for their next position.

Quick Tips for communication during a termination meeting: 

  • Begin the conversation by saying, “This is a termination meeting.”Get to the point. Use language that signals the decision is final.
  • Do not apologize for the circumstances.
  • Stick to the same story.
  • Repeat yourself when necessary.
  • Hold the meeting in a private location.
  • Do not allow the meeting to go on longer than necessary. If the employee begins asking the same questions, end the meeting.

Failing to Understand At-Will Employment

At-will employment can be somewhat of a tricky topic. At-will employment is a non-contractual relationship between an employer and an employee, where either party can terminate the relationship without notice, at any time, for any reason not prohibited by law. Termination of an employee for their membership in a protected class is not protected by at-will employment, because it is prohibited by law. Protected classes include race, age, gender, religion, physical or mental disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and citizenship. Terminating an employee due to any of these reasons is prohibited by law and doing so could result in heavy fines or lawsuits for unlawful termination or discrimination.

However, occasionally members of protected classes need to be terminated due to reasons completely unrelated to their protected class. If there is no documentation showing the lawful reason for the termination, managers may have a difficult time proving that the termination wasn’t discriminatory.

Protect your clients from legal hot water by sharing these dos & don’ts of #termination meetings. Click To Tweet

Setting Yourself Up for an Employment Claim

There are a number of things employers must do to protect themselves from getting into legal hot water before, during, and after a meeting.

Before: 

  • Never take allegations as fact.
  • Consider severance agreements.
  • Document performance and behavioral issues, as well as any disciplinary actions taken.
  • Prepare for the meeting by practicing with someone from HR. This may sound silly, but in these tense conversations, there is no room for things to “just slip out.”
  • Do not tell other employees about the upcoming termination. Office gossip can be a force to be reckoned with.

During: 

  • Having another member of HR or management present to act as a witness and take notes.
  • Keep explanations consistent.
  • Be straightforward about the situation rather than sappy and apologetic.

After: 

  • Document the process.
  • Deactivate the employee’s keycard or ask for their key back.
  • Manage the employee’s access to confidential information.
  • Inform employees about the termination.

Doing these things will help protect organizations from fines and lawsuits.

Termination meetings are uncomfortable, and no one involved enjoys them. Every termination comes with some risk. Mitigating that risk starts with knowing where to turn for the very best advice. What are you doing to help your clients protect themselves?

ThinkHR’s Comply is just one of our helpful products designed to keep your clients safe and growing strong. Take the next step and request a no-pressure consultation.