Termination without tears

Sometimes even a popular employee has to be let go. Debby Carreau, founder and CEO of Inspired HR, a consulting firm with offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, and Shawnee Love, president of Kelowna’s Love HR Inc., discuss how to avoid resentment from the departing worker and their ex-teammates.


1. Treat the exiting team member with respectDIY1Victoria Park

Instead of grabbing their keys and marching them out the door, Carreau advises, try to talk to the employee about how the organization is shifting to a new direction and how it can help them move to the next stage of their career. “Most employees are pretty realistic,” Love says. “They’re not expecting the moon—but they do want to feel like you care and like you’re trying to do your best and you’re trying to be fair.”

2. Acknowledge that terminations are hard on everyoneDIY2Victoria Park

Right after the dismissal, bring the team together to share the news, especially if it works closely with the exiting individual, Carreau suggests. If you can get across the idea that the company is devastated to lay that person off but wishes them well and is giving them support to get on their feet, Love explains, your staff will feel that you’re taking care of their beloved peer. “And if the same thing were to happen to them, the company would take care of them too.”

3. Support the survivors

You’ll often see a dip in productivity and morale among remaining staff,DIY3Victoria Park Carreau notes. Have the manager who handled the termination and the HR department keep their doors open and encourage dialogue. If staff aren’t forthcoming about their feelings, recommend that they use your employee assistance program. Bring everyone together by, for example, ordering lunch into the office or taking them out for a quick drink after work. “It’s really engaging the people that are there to realize there’s other people they can have fun with and enjoy their company,” Carreau says.

4. Keep in touchDIY4Victoria Park

Love’s advice: make sure everyone knows that the person who’s leaving is still welcome, appreciated and valued. And don’t forbid your employees from staying in contact with the person who has left, Carreau warns. It’s not realistic to say, “I don’t want you guys talking to her. I don’t want her knowing what’s going on in the organization. Just get her out of your life.”

5. Be generousDIY5Victoria Park

An employer can fund several fair severance packages for much less than the cost of one lawsuit, so always err on the side of taking care of exiting employees, Carreau says. “It’s just as important to treat everyone internally and externally well and fairly and consciously when people are exiting the organization as when onboarding employees—also, they’re going to be ambassadors in the community.”