How and When to Say Goodbye

The first three articles in this series focused on fostering a better relationship with your team.  Sometimes things don’t work out and you need to part ways.  Despite your best efforts at gaining trust, building a rapport and coaching did not help with performance issues.  Even worse, it is decided that the staff needs to be downsized.  Terminating an employee is never a comfortable experience, but there are ways to go through the process in a professional manner.



Breaking up is hard, especially for the messenger.  When a team member is underperforming or there is another reason the organization deems worthy of a termination, it is stressful for the manager who has to deliver the news.  Regardless of the relationship with the employee, this is one of the most stressful times for leaders.

There never seems to be the right time to have “the talk.  Inevitably, there will be an event happening at or near the same time such as a birthday, holiday, scheduled vacation or other major life event.  The debate begins, before or after that event.  Should it occur on Monday or Friday? 

The final decision is really a judgment call, especially around the times of major holidays such as Christmas.  The simple solution is to pick a date and write on the calendar in ink.  Quick execution on the decision will relieve pressure on management and allow for the hiring process or redistribution of responsibilities to begin.  Perpetuating the cycle of an under-performer will only decrease productivity and revenue.  (NOTE: Also check with your legal team to make sure you follow a proper process and know your legal liabilities.)

Always schedule the meeting with the team member and human resources ahead of time.  While this may invoke some anxiety in the employee, it will allow them to mentally prepare.  Calling them into a conference room where they are unaware of what may occur could feel like an ambush.  They will instantly become defensive.  The goal is to have a calm discussion, not a shouting match.

Thank them for their time at the organization and wish them well on the next chapter of their professional life.  It is an increasingly small world, paths cross frequently.  Showing respect will help keep the reputation of management and the organization as a whole. 

Following the meeting, allow the exiting employee to pack up their personal belonging and say goodbye to colleagues without hovering.  If you are worried about proprietary information, access to their computer can be removed during the meeting.

Finally address the departure with the remaining team members.  Anxieties run high following a termination.  Reassure the team that they are welcome to ask questions or voice their concerns one-on-one.  In those conversations, try to speak positively about the team member.  Modeling a positive attitude will help increase morale after a termination.

Terminating an employee is usually an action of last resort.  Even though it is not a pleasant experience for manager and employee alike, it can be done with grace and professionalism.

Gary Vice is sought out by leaders in Software and Services who recognize the need to attract the industry’s best talent.  Through Strategic Recruiting Partners’ extensive network of relationships, they are able to identify high level opportunities for well qualified candidates.  To discover how this process can benefit your job search, simply reply to this email or call Gary at 469.402.4008.