Webinar recap: How to lay off or terminate employees

Mike Harvey

This post was written by Mike Harvey as a followup to his June 2nd webinar titled, "A Manager's Guide: How to Lay Off or Terminate Employees". Mike Harvey is an experienced Human Resources and Sales and Marketing professional having worked with major corporations at senior levels of management both domestically and internationally. Through his company, Humanity In Motion, Mike provides consulting expertise in all areas of Human Resources and more specifically outplacement counseling.  Mike is one of Drake’s most sought after outplacement consultants.


Summary - A Manager's Guide: How to Lay Off or Terminate Employees

(Feel free to have a look through the slides, and then be sure to check out Mike's summary below!)


Summary - A Manager's Guide: How to Lay Off or Terminate Employees


The big question - Why is it important to have strong, repeatable and sustainable termination practices? There are major implications from poorly developed and poorly executed layoff and termination practices. Increased financial costs associated with time, litigation, employee morale and productivity. Decreased likeliness of the terminated employee to sign-off on the termination package can also result in time and litigation costs. Also, don’t forget that in the age of technology, negative messages about how they were treated and about the company’s conduct can be sent around the world in seconds on twitter or facebook. When planning for terminations, consider all options available such as reduced work weeks, re-training etc. Make sure termination is your only alternative and once this decision is made, move quickly to make it happen. Be sure to:

  • Choose a location that provides privacy
  • Arrange the meeting with the employee giving as little notice as possible. Set the meeting time for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and early in the day making sure to avoid birthdays, anniversaries, special holidays
  • The manager and HR should attend
  • Be precise and concise in delivering the message

This is the perfect opportunity to consider and contact an outplacement and career transition counsellor to assist with the process and help guide the employee post termination. They are experienced and will make a positive impact with the employee and head off any irrational behaviour.

Make a checklist before the meeting to ensure you cover off all of the basic items such as phones, laptops, keys, etc. Make your cover letter concise and precise and deal only with the issue at hand. The financial arrangements must be contained in a separate package and cover everything that will impact the employee.

Most individual terminations will be without notice and will be effective immediately following the termination meeting. Group terminations are normally with notice providing the packages are tied to continued service with some incentives added to insure productivity remains high.

When delivering the termination message, be precise and concise recognizing that this is a totally emotional situation for the employee and you have no idea how they will react. In all cases, remain calm, listen, give them time to react (shock and denial, anger, hostility, negotiation, relief, acceptance) and be sure to repeat your message as often as possible insuring the employee understands.

Post-termination there will be some uncertainty among fellow employees (some of whom may be friends of this individual), so meet with them to reinforce the decision and the support you are providing for the individual. Be very visible and don’t leave any questions unanswered. Address reallocation of work and reinforce the importance of their jobs.

All organizations have plans (sales plans, marketing plans, etc.) in place which help to contribute to the success of the organization. Terminations and layoffs are no different and can only be successful if they are well thought out, if checklists are made, if every option is explored prior and if the information is well-presented.

Don’t forget, this is a highly emotional situation for the employee, manager and other employees. Outplacement counsellors can help with everyone involved. Handled well, the employee keeps their dignity intact and will more readily accept the decision and move on new opportunities. They will see this as the beginning of a new adventure rather than the end of the road. Well-managed terminations will result in cost savings to the organization and continuity in work production and employee morale. 

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