How do I politely dismiss an employee

Notice of termination: How to prepare your managers

"Unfortunately we have to part with you!" Termination talks are delicate and require a lot of tact. Often it is up to the manager to deliver the bad news. But only a small number of them receive training in advance. In this article, you will learn what makes a well-conducted termination interview and how to prepare your executives for it.

With this checklist you keep all important conversations and tasks in mind when you are offboarding.

Unfair termination talks damage the image and motivation

Why pay attention to how the termination interview goes? The employee is leaving us anyway. Those who set up their separation culture according to this principle are only harming themselves. After all, employees who have been terminated are more prone to defamation. It doesn't matter whether you vent your anger on a private or public level (social media, employer rating portals). The image suffers in any case, because employees who leave are given a high level of credibility.

Internally too: colleagues are close. If any of them are dismissed in a hurtful way, word gets around quickly. The result: a bad working atmosphere, a lack of motivation and a drop in performance or productivity. With a termination interview that shows appreciation and empathy, you minimize the frustration of your departing employee and counteract negative consequences.

Who should conduct the dismissal interview?

The first choice should always be the manager. As a supervisor, he knows best the private situation as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the employee. B. from past feedback discussions. This gives him the opportunity to respond to it and show more empathy.

The manager should never conduct the termination interview alone. A representative from the HR department should always be present for three reasons:

1. HR managers are more familiar with the legal situation. If you have any questions, you can still answer them during the conversation.
2. HR managers can mediate. If the employee reacts very emotionally, HR can appease the situation.
3. Keyword “extreme situation”: Employees can feel personally attacked, especially if the termination is personal or behavioral. The result can be a lawsuit. HR can act as a third party as a witness if the conversation gets out of hand.

HR is responsible for training managers

A termination interview is not something that can be ticked off. Nobody likes to bring bad news. Managers would love to delegate dismissal discussions to HR managers. Because: “Leading such a fair is as difficult as breaking up,” says separation coach, Roland Jäger. A termination interview is not a matter of course: How do I start? How do I catch the employee's reaction? This type of conversation is also emotionally stressful for executives. Often, however, they are thrown into the deep end. The result: a termination interview without a system, preparation and the necessary appreciation. This in turn leads to frustration and anger among employees, who are more prone to defamation.

How can HR support this? Even if termination talks are not part of everyday life, every manager should be trained in them. HR managers are responsible for ensuring this within the framework of professional separation management and creating awareness for respectful termination discussions. It is not enough to just rely on checklists or one-off seminars. Expert Manuela Richter recommends making termination talks a regular part of management development. You should generally be trained in "delivering bad news", such as: B. when vacation requests are rejected or criticism in the feedback discussion, and not even shortly before a wave of dismissals.

The preparation: What needs to be arranged before the interview?

When it comes to dismissal discussions, what you say and how you say it is crucial. Good preparation is necessary for this. This will help the manager and you to react confidently to unexpected reactions from the employee.

Clarify the reasons for termination legally

Regardless of whether your reasons for terminating are operational, behavioral or personal: You must be able to argue in front of the employee and be able to prove why you are terminating him / her. Therefore, list the reasons and check whether the termination is also legal. To do this, secure yourself through a lawyer or your legal department.

Find a suitable time

Monday or Tuesday is ideal for a termination interview, ideally a morning. This gives the employee time to let the conversation sink in, to ask open questions promptly and, if necessary, to obtain external legal feedback. That would be almost impossible on a Friday afternoon.

Find a suitable room

The usual “termination room” or the open-plan office should and must not be - solely for reasons of discretion. Instead, choose a meeting room that is not glazed and noisy. Outsiders should not be able to see the conversation and, above all, not be able to hear it. Alternatively, the manager's office is also a good option, if available.

Prepare documents

At the appointment, all important documents should be available in writing and given to the employee. This includes, for example, the letter of termination, the certificate and any financial agreements, e.g. B. the severance payment.

Think about what you want to say.

"We are dealing with people here, so we need individual approaches," says termination coach, Hermann Refisch. There is no single formula that works equally well for everyone. Nevertheless, managers can and should think about what they want to say in advance. Concrete formulations help to keep the focus during the conversation. Empty phrases like “cheer up” and “will be fine” should be avoided.

The termination interview: You should pay attention to these eight points

The termination is a great psychological burden for your employee. The way you get the message across will greatly affect how your employee will respond to the termination. So make the conversation fair and considerate. In concrete terms: communicate clearly, unambiguously and transparently, remain factual and objective and treat the employee politely and appreciatively. Keep these eight points in mind and give them to your manager.

1. The process
The general rule is: be honest! It starts with the subject in the invitation and should continue until the conversation is over. Although the word “termination” should not be used in the e-mail subject, misleading formulations such as “feedback discussion” or “employee discussion” should also be avoided. Otherwise you will stir up false expectations. Create a conversation structure as a guide to use as a guide during the conversation, e.g. E.g. a short greeting, giving notice of termination, giving and explaining reasons, waiting for the employee's reaction and dealing with it, clarifying the next steps, arranging a follow-up meeting.

2. Get to the point quickly
Do not miss the bush for a long time during the appointment. According to experts, a termination interview should not last longer than 15 minutes. A long introduction is meant to be friendly, but it just unnecessarily suspends the employee.

Communicate the termination explicitly, clearly and actively. Avoid paraphrasing and subjunctive. This only raises hopes. Use unmistakable terms such as “dismissal” and “termination”. Avoid using phrases like “Cheer up” and “You can do that”. These are empty phrases without an emotional character.

Not like this: "It looks like your job is going to be cut!"
Instead: “Unfortunately I have to fire you! The termination is effective from [date]. "

3. Name reasons for termination
Ideally, the reasons for the termination follow the actual termination - within the first five sentences. Is it operational, personnel or behavioral? Explain to the employee what they did wrong and why it hit them in particular.

Name specific points, for example: decline in performance and quality, negative attitudes, conflicts in the team, forced downsizing in the company or the closure of individual departments. For the last point, put concrete figures on the table as to why it hit him and draw comparisons with other employees. In any case, the termination must be understandable for the employee.

4. Avoid interference
This point seems obvious, but it is not trivial. It should be ensured that the room cannot be clairaudient and other colleagues are not allowed to look in. Other noises such as ringing cell phones or colleagues knocking should not interrupt the conversation. Because they only make the atmosphere more uncomfortable for the departing employee.

5. Be prepared for reactions from the employee
There are three basic responses that leaders should prepare for: the composed and emotional types, and the negotiator. The controlled type seems collected and doesn't say much. The emotional type, in turn, cries or gets angry. The negotiator will try to negotiate compromises with you or to postpone the termination. Managers should not go into this, but stand firm. If your reactions are very emotional, show empathy, but not compassion.

6. Keep control of the conversation
Regardless of how your employee reacts: Managers are the conversation leaders and should always ensure that the conversation takes place in a controlled manner. In order not to be surprised by the employee's reaction, preparation is also important here. What to do if the employee gets angry When does he start crying? Or when he gets violent? It is up to the manager to calm the situation down and bring it back under control.

This is how managers should appear during the dismissal interview:

  • Polite, but not too warm: Keep an emotional distance throughout the conversation.
  • Composed and steadfast: executives should not let themselves be unsettled by the emotions of the employee.
  • Clear in communication, professional in behavior: No matter how the employee reacts to the termination - your manager should not get involved in arguments.

7. Clarify the next steps with the departing employee
A termination is an exceptional situation and first of all places the employee in front of a wall. What happens now You should therefore instruct the employee in the next steps. It is now standard practice to release colleagues who have been laid off with immediate effect. It is considered a sign of fairness. The free time gives him the opportunity to come to terms with the termination and to devote himself directly to his future. The communication to the team, the handover and the proportional vacation entitlement must also be clarified. This should either be paid out or granted.

What else can you do as a HR manager? Offer your employee a follow-up interview. Sometimes it helps to put thoughts into words and discuss them. As a link between management and employees, you should therefore approach the employee after the termination interview and clarify any open questions or try to reduce their worries.

One possibility for this is the exit interview. In this meeting between the HR manager and the departing employee, you can clarify any final questions and obtain further feedback from the employee. Use our questionnaire for exit interviews. It supports you in leaving enough space for emotions and at the same time drawing lessons thanks to structured evaluations.

8. Talk to remaining employees
Am i next Word of termination quickly gets around - and that makes people feel insecure. To prevent it from negatively affecting the mood and performance of other coworkers, speak to the team. Make it clear how the termination will affect the team, projects, goals, and the organization. In most cases, this calms the situation down, gives employees a new boost in motivation and binds them back to the company more strongly.

Conclusion: The separation management has to be right

Good leadership and separation culture are characterized by fairness and clarity. This also includes a termination interview that honors the work of the employee. Prepare it together with your manager and clearly define the roles. Guide the manager and provide input on how the conversation should go.

By the way: Before the employee actually leaves the company, you should have an exit interview with them. In this appointment you clarify all open matters and thus ensure a positive farewell.

Marina Buller

Marina is Content Marketing Manager at Personio and has dedicated herself entirely to HR and recruiting topics. After completing her master's degree in Lund, Sweden, she gathered HR insights while working at XING. She lets this experience flow into her texts - always following Personio's motto “simplify personnel work”.