Timing Employee Termination

So, you’ve made the decision to terminate an employee…..now what??  Ending the employment relationship in this fashion is one of the most daunting tasks for Managers and Business Owners.  There are, however, several proactive steps that you can take to ensure the process is handled properly, professionally and with consideration for the employee’s dignity.

One of the steps is the timing of the termination.  Clients often ask “when is the most appropriate time to do a termination?” Advice will vary and there is never a perfect occasion but there are certain times that are better than others.  Here are my thoughts….

Now that we are in the midst of the holiday season, I would recommend avoiding terminating an employee this time of the year for most situations (unless it is critical to do so immediately).  This also includes birthdays or other known special occasions that the employee may be celebrating.  Waiting a few days (if possible) will reduce the stress and trauma of the event.  Plus, it is an ethically difficult pill to swallow if you “knowingly” terminate an employee on the date of a personal event.

There are many opinions on the day of the week that is best (or days to avoid).  Mid-week terminations will allow the employee to reach out for professional, legal or other advice they may need.  Typically, Fridays are recommended as not ideal because the employee would be left facing a weekend of going things over in his/her mind without being able to seek assistance.

The time of day should also be considered.  I usually suggest mid-morning if possible.  This allows the employee to leave for the remainder of the day, prepare how she/he will handle the conversation with family members and perhaps start to reach out to contacts (networking, legal or other advice).  Holding the meeting at the end of day can be seen as callous.  The employee may think “the company just wanted to get another full working day out of me”.  It is also difficult for the Manager who has to deliver the news as he/she will most likely be pondering what will be said and therefore, won’t be very productive throughout the day.

Also, consider holding the meeting at a time and location that will not parade the employee through the office or plant at a peak period (i.e. break or lunch time).

If you do make a decision to terminate, try and stick to it.  If you continue to wait for the right time, you can run into several problems.  First, the employee may become aware of the situation and become disruptive or unproductive.    Second, other employees may become aware that something is up and morale may suffer.  A third problem could be, for example, the unfortunate accident of an employee which could mean you may be liable for short term and long term disability claims.  Once the decision has been made, it is best to act promptly and not delay.

The timing of the termination may come up if an employee seeks legal advice so you want to mitigate your risk by properly preparing as best you can.

And remember, the way in which the timing is handled is not only being scrutinized by the departing employee but also by those still existing employees whom you want to remain committed, engaged and productive!

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