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No one likes telling an employee it’s time to go, but according to career management specialists, Audrey Paige and Associates, the conversation can be made less stressful both for the departing employee and for the boss who has to break the bad news. This comes down to planning and making sure the day has no surprises.

Remember that you’re walking in a difficult area here and it’s essential to follow the rules and get some expert advice from a lawyer who specialises in this area.

Some of the key things that should be on the firing checklist are ticking off all legal and industrial requirements that may require the advice of an employment law specialist. Also consider the industrial relations area in terms of proper consultations with unions, etc.

These legal and industrial considerations also include such things as retrenchment entitlements and final payments. I’ve asked this recruitment firm to lend a hand here.

The Paige approach

Be brief and to the point. The employee will intuitively know that something is going to happen. So don’t make them wait. For example, the opening communication could be something along the lines of the following example:

“A decision has been made to cease the manufacture of consumer goods due to lack of demand. This has impacted on our required staffing levels and I regret to advise that your position has been made redundant. As there are no other suitable roles for you within the company, I must advise you of your retrenchment from the company, effective from next Monday.”

Something along these lines is direct but respectful. The important point is to keep the discussion to a minimum. Don’t engage in any negotiation with the employee. The business decision is regrettable, but final.  

Gentle and sympathetic

Gentle and sympathetic is often a difficult blend to achieve. The best approach is considerate, respectful, but direct. A well-planned process will demonstrate respect for the individual.

Display empathy, but don’t use words like, “I know how you feel” or, “I’m really sorry about this”. The experts say that these sorts of phrases can really inflame the situation and the employee can often retaliate.  

How not to ...

You’ll hear of some big no-no’s when it comes to making staff redundant – for example, people being retrenched by email. That is certainly not a respectful process.

To demonstrate consideration by delivering the news face-to-face is very important. If that’s not possible, make sure a telephone hook-up is arranged.

The other important thing there is to make sure everyone affected by the dismissal hears the news personally. So don’t allow them to hear it on the company grapevine or by way of communication from the IT department that their log-ons have been deleted, or something similar which often occurs.

When the time is right

In days gone by, retrenchments used to be done on Friday. Current thinking is that there’s certainly no perfect day to retrench any employee, but Friday would be have to be the worst day.

The weekend doesn’t allow employees to engage with any support services that may have been retained for them, so my suggestion is for early in the week. This way, the employee can seek available and appropriate support and advice, whether it be personal, financial, or career related.  

Choosing the time to leave

Once you’ve fired an employee, do you advise them to leave on the same day? This really depends on the business circumstances. The business should drive that, and in some organisations, it’s quite appropriate.

Long periods of separation however, can cause employees to stress. They often find it difficult to focus on the job at hand. Most employees like to have the opportunity to close off on a few work issues and say their goodbyes in a respectful way and that can normally happen within a day or two and if the business can sustain that, then it is a good idea.

However, the business does need to assess the risks and that may sometimes mean an immediate departure.  

Support the retrenched

Placement support is invaluable in being able to provide immediate and ongoing support to the affected individuals. It assists them in dealing with their reaction to the news and works with them on an ongoing basis to support their career planning and job search.

It is also a great support for the manager or the owner as the outplacement firm can assist them in the planning and implementation of the process.  

Notifying suppliers and customers

Once again, the way the retrenchment is handled will send a very strong message to customers — and that needs to be the focus of a separate strategy.

A separate communication and notification strategy needs to be developed to address the customers – this is an often-overlooked area. Obviously the plan will depend on the numbers of people and the types of jobs, etc.

However, it would be appropriate to advise key accounts of staffing changes and if there are large-scale changes, it may be appropriate to communicate the business reasons for the changes to reassure customers that the business values the relationship.  

Dismissal due to poor performance

Poor performance dismissal is very different, as it relates to the individual and their performance in their job responsibilities. Retrenchments are really position related, so it’s the job that’s becoming redundant.

So the process is quite different and you should be well informed and advised by a professional about due process in that area.
 

Published on: Monday, July 06, 2009

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