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One of the most challenging roles of a manager is terminating an employee. Once the decision to terminate an employee has been made, managers find themselves in a rather awkward situation of having to break the bad news to the employee. Terminating an employee is not always a pleasurable activity because it comes with several challenges.
First, it can be traumatizing to the laid off employee and the other employees who have remained behind. Second, layoffs have emotional effects on the managers who have to plan and conduct the whole process.
Finally, termination always comes with issues of compensation and potential threats of lawsuits if it is mishandled. Thus, simply put, terminating an employee is one of the worst things a manager ever has to do. However, if the dismissal meeting is conducted in a professional manner, it can help maintain the employee’s dignity and help minimize any potential eventualities.
One of the most difficult decisions for managers is that of dismissing an employee (Molinsky & Margolis, 2006, pp. 145-159). Dismissing an employee often comes with several challenges especially when done in the context of a layoff (Grunberg et al, 2006, pp. 159-178).
Yet, dismissal is one of the most common decisions managers must make. It is a usual practice in contemporary business management. Dismissal is usually done as a measure of cutting expenditure to achieve profitability (Gareth & George, 2011).
First lines managers usually bear the brunt of informing individual employees that they are to be laid off (Armstrong & Baron, 2002). To do this successfully requires a lot of tact. Dismissing an employee who is friend is definitely a painful procedure. Such an exercise is bound to leave an indelible mark on the manager implementing the decision.
Having to dismiss an employee creates a lot of negative emotions on the manager. Such emotions are sometimes so severe that managers tend to avid or distance themselves from having to undertake the process altogether (Grunberg et al, 2006, pp. 159-178).
Three ways that a manager can cope with any negative emotions that may accompany an employee layoff
Layoff can cause negative emotions to a manager who has to implement the directive. Whereas some managers will adjust well after the layoff, some will become aloof and distressed. Still, others are likely to develop insomnia, or become increasingly insensitive (Grunberg et al, 2006, pp. 159-178). In some cases, some managers might become confused as to their actual roles.
This creates a sense of guilt, breakdown, and failure. Because these negative emotions can cause heath complications, it is important to cope with them. How a manager copes and behave after the layoff will have a direct effect on employee’s behavior and, consequently, their motivations and effectiveness (Armstrong & Baron, 2002).
Managers can cope with the above negative emotions in several ways. First, managers can seek guidance from a counselor or a medical practitioner to help them overcome depression and guilt. Second, the manager should get assurance from their superiors that the decisions they implemented were right (Grunberg et al, 2006, pp. 159-178).
This validation will help in eliminating feelings of guilt and help assure the manager that after all, they were merely doing their work (Knights & Willmott, 2012). Third, a manager should have an open communication with other line managers, the employees and other interested parties.
They can also meditate, take some leave, or engage in interesting events such team building, community service, or sports. These can go a long way in helping the manager cope with the above negative emotions.
A step-by-step process of conducting the dismissal meeting
An employee can be dismissed because of several reasons. Once a decision has been arrived at to dismiss an employee for which ever reason, the next challenge is usually how to break the news. The first thing is to organize for a professional dismissal meeting (Stewart & Brown, 2012).
The dismissal meeting should be arranged only after a well thought out ground work and documentation to validate the decision to dismiss the employee. The dismissal meeting should be done in a manner that maintains the employee’s dignity.
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This is meant to reduce chances of the employee resenting the manager and the organization as a whole (Knights & Willmott, 2012). It can also help in minimizing chances of former employees portraying the organization in bad light thereby safeguarding the reputation of the organization.
Communication should told direct i.e. one-on-one not using any other communication method. The dismissal meeting should be conducted by the immediate boss, who is usually the most conversant with the employee and the reasons for the dismissal (Stewart & Brown, 2012).
Sometimes, there is need to have a third party as a witness. Having a witness helps reduce the feeling of unfair treatment on the part of the employee being terminated. However, the manager must state categorically the role of the witness; that of observation and not to represent or speak on behalf of the employee.
The meeting should be conducted in a quiet, private setting with no interruptions. According to Armstrong & Baron (2002), the dismissal meeting should be held in a neutral place. It should neither be conducted in the managers’ officer nor in the office of the employee being dismissed.
Although finding a private and neutral place can be a challenge in some cases, it is integral that the meeting be held where it is possible to manage any emotional involvements and where the meeting can easily be ended once the bombshell has been dropped.
Good HR practice requires that a dismissal meeting be held earlier in the day and earlier in the week (Stewart & Brown, 2012). Employees should not be dismissed on Fridays or on the eve of holidays. Dismissing an employee on a Friday might give them time to organize some retaliatory attack on the company.
Dismissing an employee earlier in the week is a blessing in disguise to the employee since they are likely to have more time to begin another job search immediately. Similarly dismissals should be conducted in the morning hours when employees are fresher and relaxed. Later in the day, the employees will most likely have developed some work related stress (Quick & Nelson, 2009) which might bring undesirable reactions to the dismissal.
In the actual termination meeting, the employee must be given an adequate reason why they are being terminated (Gareth & George, 2011). The termination meeting should last between ten and fifteen minutes. This is because its purpose is to communicate to the employee in a simple and clear message that the employee is being terminated and the reason as to why.
The reasons for dismissing an employee must be adequate and reasonable (Stewart & Brown, 2012). The manager should probe the employee to gauge if they have understood and if they have any concerns to raise. By giving the employee a chance to respond and clearing any misunderstandings thereof, the manager will in essence, be minimizing any potential chances of lawsuits for wrongful dismissal.
In clear and in no uncertain terms, the employee must be made to understand that that the termination decision is final.
The employee needs to understand that the position has already been taken, all options have been explored, and that even other interested parties have agreed to the dismissal (Stewart & Brown, 2012) and that the manager is merely acting as an informer. This will enable the manager to maintain their composure in the whole process. It can also help in avoiding any potential physical aggression from the employee.
During the meeting, the manager must explain the company’s policy on reference checks (Armstrong & Baron, 2002). The employee should be told how the company handles reference information.
If the company has a policy on providing job designations, employment history, and salary information to prospective persons who request for it, this information should be communicated to the employee during the dismissal meeting. Upon request, the manager should provide a letter of service (Stewart & Brown, 2012).
The manager should collect company items from the employee. Such items could include job identification cards, company vehicles, keys, cell phones, or any other such materials. Granted, the manager might opt to collect the items during the termination meeting.
Alternatively, the manager might want to avoid embarrassing the employee and allow them to return the things at a future specified date. According to Stewart & Brown (2012), these items can be collected later when the employee is formally handing over. Armstrong & Baron (2002) have argued that the manager should also take some time to brief the employee on the issue of benefits in the course of the termination meeting.
The compensation that the company may provide to the separated employee
A number of compensation and benefits packages are available to the employee being terminated. Such compensation includes vacation compensation, severance compensation, and continuation of health insurance compensation (Stewart & Brown, 2012).
Others include unemployment insurance compensation and retirement benefits as provided for under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (CORA) of 1985.
Employers are obliged by these state and federal legislation to continue providing separated employees with such compensation. However, there are no legal provisions compelling employers to provide severance compensation or any other benefits to the separated employees.
Because layoffs are usually rare, the employee can be paid in full, the last drawn salary in lieu of the notice period. If the employee if being terminated because of performance, the employee will be compensated their last drawn salary.
If the employee is being dismissed for disciplinary reasons, the employee will not be paid for the notice period (Armstrong & Baron, 2002). Such employees do not enjoy insurance and unemployment benefits. Finally, federal legislation provides that terminated employees are eligible for pension or profit sharing according to the terms of the plan.
HR experts believe that as a good practice, the manager should prepare the final paycheck and have it ready at the meeting (Stewart & Brown, 2012). This is a positive thing to do and might help reduce feelings of resentment by the separated employee.
A chart that depicts the timeline of the disbursement of the compensation
Three ways that layoff may affect a company
Layoffs may affect a company in several ways. First, the message might not be communicated well to the victims being terminated. This can infuriate employees and breed in them the feeling that management is insensitive to their needs. This might eventually damage the reputation of the company (Quick & Nelson, 2009).
Secondly, depending on the manner in which it is handled, layoff can push the sacked employees to seek redress though such acts as lawsuits for wrongful dismissal, vandalizing company assets, or theft (Molinsky & Margolis, 2006, pp. 145-159). Thirdly, layoff can reduce the morale of the existing employees.
Finally, witnessing an employee being laid off can create a sense of job insecurity and fear in the remaining employees. Thus, it is imperative that managers treat the affected victims in a dignified, respectful, and compassionate manner in order to minimize the above negative effects.
This paper has established that dismissal is a very challenging role that managers have to undertake (Molinsky & Margolis, 2006, pp. 145-159). Managers who spearhead and implement the dismissal of employees usually undergo a lot of negative emotional and psychological stress. Layoff are painful experiences which are sometimes characterized by indelible memories which, if not well managed can lead to distress.
Managers have been known to develop insomnia, become aloof or have little feelings (Grunberg et al, 2006, pp. 159-178). In order to cope with these negative emotions, the manager should see a counselor or a medical practitioner. Alternatively, the manager can have a candid communication with their superior and other line managers.
Managers can equally meditate, take leave, or engage in team building exercises. When conducting a dismissal meeting, the manager must maintain the employee’s dignity and ensure that the meeting is done in a private place (Stewart & Brown, 2012). Dismissals should be done in the morning hours, with employees being given adequate reasons why they are being terminated.
Termination decisions are usually final implying that any relevant compensation like health insurance, unemployment insurance and retirement benefits should be clearly highlighted (Armstrong & Baron, 2002). Layoffs have several effects on a company. If it is not well-handled, the company can find itself dogged with many law suits for wrongful termination.
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