How do I deal with laid-off employees

The termination interview: how do I tell my employee?

Inform employees of the termination - Every manager can face this unpleasant task. In order to be able to organize such conversations and separation processes as “painlessly” as possible for everyone involved, you will find some tips here.

“The notice of termination was in the mailbox on Saturday. And on Monday morning my access code was already blocked in the company. All of my colleagues knew when I got into the office and looked away, shocked. The only one who didn't show up was my boss. He had taken a vacation. "

Dismissals are seldom so stylish. But many executives shy away from personally informing employees of their termination. And if this is pronounced, they avoid those who have been terminated. That has consequences.

The terminated sees himself and his work degraded. He no longer says a good word about his employer to his colleagues. And their work ethic is falling. Among other things, because they fear: This is how my employer will deal with me at some point.

What do you have to pay attention to in the event of a termination?

Companies should make the necessary separation of employees as clean and fair as possible:

  1. The Self esteem the employee to be terminated should be preserved.
  2. The remaining employees are allowed to not unnecessarily demotivated become.
  3. The company should no long-term harm suffer.

These questions should be answered when you cancel:

This requires careful preparation. Companies can do this best if, as soon as it becomes clear that employees need to be laid off, they write a script for the termination and separation process. This should answer the following questions, among others:

  • According to which criteria will it be decided who will be fired?
  • To which time does the termination take place?
  • when and how will the notice of termination be given?
  • who conducts the termination and separation talks?
  • How will the remaining employees informed about the terminations?
  • How will they deal with the employees to be terminated and the remaining employees justified?
  • How do we design it Separation process?

Notice of termination: stay calm and matter-of-fact

As a rule, the immediate supervisor should inform the employees concerned about their termination - even if this is sent by the HR department. He must prepare for this conversation. Among other things, by asking himself in advance:

  • Do I just inform the employee of the termination during the interview and then sit down with him again to agree on how the separation will be organized?
  • Or should the termination and separation interview take place at the same time?

Appropriately plan separation and termination talks

The decision about this should be made dependent on the following questions:

  • Who is your counterpart
  • How is he / she likely to react? And:
  • Are employees already expecting a termination or are they falling out of the woods?

If the latter is the case, there is a separation of Termination and separation interview usually the more appropriate solution. Because this gives the terminated person the chance to digest the shock and prepare for the separation interview.

Notice of termination: Don't talk about the bush

Managers often want to get the dismissal discussion over with as quickly as possible. The result: You offend the employee by suddenly giving him the message

you are fired

thrown towards you. At times, however, you also shy away from saying the unpleasant message and keep talking about the bush. Both are inappropriate.

Think of one adequate opening of the conversationin which there is no endless discussion about, for example, the unfavorable economic situation. This unnecessarily increases the pain of the employee, who usually quickly suspects where the conversation is leading. Get down to business after a brief introduction. For example, say:

“As you know, our order volume has halved. Therefore the company management had to decide on some cost-cutting measures. This includes five redundancies for operational reasons in our area. The employees concerned were selected based on the following criteria…. You, Mr / Ms ..., are unfortunately among those affected. We will terminate the employment relationship with you on 1.4. break up."

EXTRA: Apprenticeship relationship: Termination by the trainee

Accept emotions

Employees react differently to this message - some shocked, some calmly, some angry. Allow your coworker to show emotion. Express your understanding for this. And give him enough time to regain his composure.

If he does not succeed in this, you should postpone regulating the separation modalities - for example by suggesting:

“Mr. / Ms. Müller, you must first digest the shock. What do you think if we sit down again the day after tomorrow and talk about it ... "

No-Gos in the termination discussion:

Sometimes executives have to give resignations that they do not stand behind. For example, because they decided to make sense of themselves restructuring doubt. Or because they would have preferred to leave another employee, but no other decision was possible due to the social selection.

Then these concerns must not be expressed in the conversation with the employee - for example with words such as

"I don't understand why the company management ..."

Because you take on the task of "termination" on behalf of the company management.

You will also end up in the devil's kitchen if you articulate your reservations. Because the terminated one will loudly announce as soon as he has left your office:

"Even our boss feels that the dismissal is unfair".

So he will use you as a key witness against the company management - possibly even if he takes legal action against the termination.

Notice of termination: "You said ... .."

Allegations that executives are often confronted with when they are made redundant include:

"But a month ago you were still planning with me ..."


"At the Christmas party you said our jobs are safe."

Then you should stand by your words and actions. Regret your mistake. Say that you assessed the situation differently at the time, but that it has changed in the meantime due to factors A, B, C.

In termination and separation discussions, managers often find out things about the private life of the terminated that they previously knew nothing about. For example, when the terminated person says desperately: "But I've just built a house." Or: "My wife left me and I have to pay child support to her and the children."

Sometimes this new information even calls into question the criteria of the social selection prescribed in larger companies when dismissing several employees. For example, when an employee explains: "I have to pay for my mother in need of care" or "I'm single, but I've lived with a woman with two children for years."

Even then, you must not question the termination. Otherwise you are setting a precedent. And all the other employees that you are about to fire will start a horse trade with you. What if a termination becomes legally problematic due to the information you have just received? Then you should strive for a termination agreement with the employee. Because nothing pollutes the working atmosphere as much as a Months of labor court litigation with an uncertain outcome.

"Why me?"

Regardless of this, the employees to be terminated will always ask: Why me? Give the employee an explanation that is understandable in terms of content. In no case should you get involved in a discussion about the selection criteria. Because whoever discusses the reasons for the termination, discusses the termination themselves.

How difficult it is to justify a termination largely depends on the occasion. At terminations for personal or behavioral reasons justifying is easy. The main thing here is to observe the legal procedure.

It is more difficult when an employee does not provide the desired performance. Then, as a manager, you should try to find a linguistic packaging for the reason that does not hurt the person concerned. The easiest way to do this is to talk less about its deficits than about them lack of fit between tasks and qualifications.

Justify termination without offending

If a company with more than 20 employees dismisses a larger number of employees for operational reasons, then their selection must usually be made in accordance with the legal requirements based on criteria such as age, marital status and length of service. Even then, justification is comparatively easy, because the selection is based on objective criteria. Therefore, the employee can more easily accept such a selection than a personal one.

The situation is different if factors such as:

  • Who does what? And:
  • What skills does the company need?

Then reasoning quickly becomes a tricky task. For example, if a technician needs to be explained why he has to leave, while his two professional colleagues who do the same tasks are allowed to stay.

Because if you say to the person concerned"Your colleagues are more adept at dealing with customers" or "Your work is more likely to have deficiencies", this will of course contradict. That is why such termination situations often make executives sweat. Nevertheless, you have to give your employee a reason - even if you know: He will not accept it without contradiction. Then you have to be ready to take on the role of the bogeyman.

That is part of the job of a manager. With such layoffs, however, companies often move on thin ice from a legal point of view. Therefore, in such situations it is usually more advantageous to have a Termination agreement to strive for.

Notice of termination: regulate the time until you leave the company

If the termination is pronounced and justified, it is about the Time between termination and resignation to regulate from the company. A separate appointment can be made for this. In the separation interview itself, your employee should be shown a way of doing this Separation process can be designed.

Besides, you should him Help with finding a new job to offer. For example, by taking his wishes into account when formulating the job reference. Or, by offering to sign up for applications as a Reference person to call.

EXTRA: Employment reference: Avoid trouble when leaving

Use career counselors as support

In order to make the separation process smooth, it is often advisable to have a Career or new placement consultant to engage, who supports the terminated employees in developing a new professional perspective. Because by working with such a consultant, the view of the terminated employees is turned towards the future.

That helps them digest the termination. In addition, this sends the signal to the remaining employees: Our company will not leave our "former" colleagues out in the rain. Especially when it comes to dismissing well-established and highly respected employees, companies should consider hiring such a consultant.

Likewise, if a termination could be legally problematic, as the support in developing a new professional perspective makes it easier for employees to agree to a termination agreement.

Turn your gaze back to the future

Often is one paid leave the most sensible solution for both parties until the date of departure. This has the advantage for those who have been terminated: They can concentrate fully on developing a new perspective.

A leave of absence is also usually the best for the working atmosphere. Because as long as the employee or employees who have been terminated stay in the company, their colleagues who are still working are torn inside and out. On the one hand, they feel sorry for their colleagues, on the other hand, they often see the need to resign.

This inner conflict negatively affects theirs Work ethic out. It also prevents them from turning their gaze back to the future. However, this should be done as quickly as possible after a staff reduction.

Our book tip for the topic:

Treat people fairly: Professional separation management & new / outplacement

Author: Michael Hanschitz
Published on: November 09, 2016
Hardback edition: 156 pages
Amazon: 4.6 stars

Watch now

(This article was updated on 06/03/2019.)

Frank Adensam is the owner of Adensam Managementberatung in Mannheim, which specializes in the fields of new and outplacement as well as executive placement (Tel .: 0621/31993700; E-Mail: [email protected]).