HomeEmployee ExperienceEngagementHow to make your employee termination processes a seamless transition for all

How to make your employee termination processes a seamless transition for all

  • 6 Min Read

Roza Szafranek, CEO and Founder of HR Hints, shares a detailed protocol for seamlessly conducting employee termination processes to preserve trust and morale

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An employee termination process is never easy for anyone involved. It can be a complex and emotional process for the employee being terminated, their coworkers, supervisors, and the company itself.

When companies terminate employees without respect or consideration for their situation and feelings, they may resent the company and lack trust in them in the future. This is especially true when employees feel like their organization let them go without fair warning or proper explanation. This resentment can lead to decreased morale among other employees who may feel they could be next.

As executive teams and HR leaders plan for potential terminations or layoffs ahead, it is imperative to ensure your company designs a detailed protocol for handling employee terminations.

Layoffs: the right way and the wrong way

 In the case of employee termination due to poor performance, organizations can take several steps to place the employee on notice while simultaneously allowing them to increase productivity. The three basic steps to take when addressing the possible employee termination of a poorly performing employee are:

  • First, set up a meeting with the employee, their direct supervisor, and a representative from HR and review their current performance while providing them with an opportunity to respond to the inquiry. Make it clear that their performance is falling short of expectations and offer ways to help them improve within a set time.
  • The second step is to give them space and resources to improve and perform better and have them document their progress and report activities to their supervisor on a pre-determined basis (daily or weekly).
  • The third step is for all parties to meet again (at the agreed-upon time frame), review growth, and assess if the employee’s performance has improved.

If the employee does not improve, then start the process of termination. Having provided the opportunity for the employee to take charge of their performance during the review period will have earned their respect and understanding that their role may not be a good match for their interests or skill sets. This process also validates the concern that the employee was underperforming and leaves no question about terminating the professional relationship.

The process of employee termination

Providing reasonable notice before terminating jobs, being transparent in decision-making, and offering support in transition can help organizations conduct all layoffs responsibly, respecting everyone’s rights.

This requires careful consideration and planning of the steps toward employee termination, and it starts with assessing the need first. Is the layoff due to a company-wide cost cut, or is the termination based on performance? Companies need to be fair in both situations. If, for example, a company is cutting every team by 30%, they should look at underperforming employees on all levels.

If mismanaged, there may be financial losses from having to pay out severance packages that were not previously budgeted for or legal action taken against the company for wrongful termination.

When managed correctly, the company and the employee are in a much better position to move on from the professional relationship. From the company’s perspective, maintaining professional integrity is vital to its culture and success. Terminations do not happen in a vacuum and will be discussed among remaining employees. Handling an employee termination poorly can send a wave of fear and resentment through related departments and may cause a loss of productivity and collaboration among teams.

Additionally, there is a transfer of knowledge from the employee that would be beneficial to gain before they leave the company. This includes all accesses, data, project due dates, and vendor relationships. When there is an established level of respect between the employee and employer at the start of the termination process, both parties are willing to provide concessions to make a transition happen more smoothly.

Develop an effective employee termination protocol

Effective employee terminations require a protocol to ensure a successful process. Termination protocols should be clear and consistent while outlining the necessary steps for professionally executing an employee termination.

It is also important to consider the employee’s rights, such as vacation pay, medical coverage, and any other benefits they may have accrued during their tenure with the company. The termination protocol should outline how the organization will manage these benefits after an employee leaves, including payment of any outstanding balances or transfer of insurance coverage.

Companies should conduct terminations transparently and professionally to create a successful win-win situation. This means being open and honest about why layoffs are necessary, providing honest feedback on an employee’s performance and how it is not aligning with the expectation of their role, and providing support during the transition.

Manage the logistical elements

When planning for an employee termination, companies should establish and follow a checklist of tasks for the entire process. Documentation is a critical element of a checklist. This includes filling all paperwork out correctly and delivering any applicable severance packages per company policy. It is also essential to create a timeline that outlines when each stakeholder should complete their tasks to meet all deadlines.

An established checklist simplifies transitioning employees out of the company. It provides valuable feedback for organizational growth, mitigates security threats, and boosts the chance of regaining an employee who left voluntarily. It also helps ensure knowledge transfer and retention within the organization.

Look for opportunities to learn and improve

To ensure successful outcomes for both employers and employees, companies must take the time to evaluate past terminations, review their policies and procedures related to such matters, provide support services during and after transition periods, and implement exit interview programs.

Analyzing past terminations will help employers identify areas where they can make improvements. This should include examining why the employee termination took place and how management oversaw it. Additionally, updating policies and procedures can ensure that employees are aware of their rights throughout the process while providing managers with clear direction on conducting respectful terminations.

To maintain a compassionate atmosphere amidst a problematic situation, companies should consider training supervisors on communication techniques to support those who have been let go. Furthermore, offering continued support services throughout the transition period can help ease any anxiety about leaving an organization or being laid off. Incorporating an exit interview program is another excellent way of gathering feedback from departing employees, which HR leaders can then use to refine processes going forward.

And don’t forget about the employees who are still around. They deserve answers.

One of the worst mistakes is leaving the remaining staff with no information, answers, or reasoning. The remaining employees must know they have a future and opportunities to grow. What’s most important is for them to know that they aren’t next. This is why we highly recommend that companies do not do layoffs in rounds and do it all at once, if possible. Companies need to communicate that they can feel safe if they stay and there’s a plan for them as the company looks ahead to the future.


Roza Szafranek, CEO and Founder of HR Hints and Author of “Culturivy: The Power of Changing a Workplace”

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