Despite the times we are living in, a lot of life is continuing on as normal. People are working from home, but they’re still working. We’re still hiring. We’re still onboarding new employees, and unfortunately, we are still realizing some members on our teams aren’t great fits. While terminating an employee virtually may seem complicated, there’s a lot you can do to ease the stress and discomfort on both sides.
We wanted to give a few rules of thumb to help make the process easier, and give you and the employee the best experience possible in a less than perfect situation.
The same rules apply in office or virtually
Be polite. Stick to the facts. Make it quick. The employee being terminated likely does not want to be in the conversation any longer than they need to, and you owe it to them as their employer to make the process as painless as possible.
State only facts and don’t get into feelings. Now is not the time to debate something. The decision has been made, and your only job in this meeting is to relay the decision and let the employee know next steps.
Focus on maintaining the employee’s dignity
When you’ve made the decision to let the employee go, be sure to prepare for giving them the utmost respect. This situation is hard. Now is not the time to turn off your camera. Keep your camera on and address the situation promptly. Look the person in the eyes, and treat them with the same empathy and kindness that you would want had the roles been reversed.
Document, document, document
Before all terminations, you should have proper documentation in place. First, you should have notes about every discussion you had regarding the employee’s performance. You’ll also want the improvement plan that you put them on and how they did not meet the marks there.
Compiling this documentation can be tough, but tools like Kin help you keep it all in one place. If you don’t have a place that you’re storing documentation in while working remotely, check us out and save yourself time and heartache later on.
Another important step in documentation is ensuring you have a severance agreement and any other paperwork you need them to sign available during the termination call. You’ll want to walk through that paperwork and also provide any expectations for them to complete it.
Have a witness who is willing to tune in with their camera on
If you are big enough to have an HR representative on staff, obviously they would be on the call with you. In fact, they likely will do a majority of the talking. If you don’t have an HR representative, then you must have a witness of some sort. This person is just there to be a witness to the event and to ensure that nothing happens that could be in non-compliance. Again, they’re not here to say anything but just to bear witness. This can help reduce any he said, she said situations down the road.
Try to pick an unbiased third-party for this role.
Pick a termination date that gives them a head start
The worst time to fire anyone is a Friday afternoon, contrary to popular belief. When you do this, you are giving the employee all weekend to think about what happened versus beginning to job search immediately.
Of course, they could put in applications over the weekend but we all know that those will be buried by applications coming in through Monday morning. Also, they likely won’t get a response until a few days later compared to finding a good fit and potentially getting a response the same day during the week.
Alert your IT team ahead of time
Before you make the move, make sure that your IT team knows what’s going on. They’ll need to know the date and time of the termination so they can be prepared to turn off any portals to sensitive data remotely immediately following the conversation. This will protect you and your company.
They’ll also need to be responsible for checking in any equipment that is returned and ensuring it’s in good condition.
Immediately call a team meeting
Working remotely can make people feel like they’re on an island. This is especially true when a big decision like letting a team member go happens.
The last thing you want is one of your team members to hear from someone else other than their leader as to what happened. By immediately calling a team meeting and letting everyone know about the situation you are ensuring they receive the right message versus a game of telephone. You’re also providing a deep-seated respect to your team. It shows that above all else you are willing to be transparent and honest in tough times.