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Q&A: What words do I use in an employee termination?

Jill Shroyer, Founder of Expedition HR
Jan 12, 2023

Having a conversation with an employee about why you’re letting them go is never fun. Sometimes it can even be difficult or challenging. In this episode, Jill Shroyer, Founder and CEO of Expedition HR and best-selling author of the book Conquer Sticky Situations, shares helpful phrasing for when you need to let someone go. This […]

Having a conversation with an employee about why you’re letting them go is never fun. Sometimes it can even be difficult or challenging.

In this episode, Jill Shroyer, Founder and CEO of Expedition HR and best-selling author of the book Conquer Sticky Situations, shares helpful phrasing for when you need to let someone go. This five-step formula will give you the basics to handle any tough conversation. She also shares some tips to accommodate for the nuanced “what if” scenarios.

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On this episode, you’ll hear:

  • [00:45] An overview of the steps
  • [02:22] Tips to keep in mind
  • [04:37] Sample employee termination script


Welcome to POPS, the show that shows you how to shift from human resources, paperwork to people, operations for the new world of work. How by answering one question at a time. I’m Jill Shroyer, CEO and Founder of Expedition HR, and the bestselling author of the book Conquer Sticky Situations. Here to help answer the question, what words do I use during an employee termination?

I’m going to share some helpful phrasing for when you need to let someone go. This phrasing essentially captures my five step formula for handling tough conversations from my book, conquer Sticky Situations. Those five steps are step one, thanks. Step two, why step three? What step four, how? Step five.

Thanks again. The first step, thanks is fairly self explanatory. Simply say, thanks for being there for the conversation. Step two, why is where you get the reason right out there for the meeting? Don’t dance around it. One sentence clear and to the. Step three. What is where you share a quick reason or two for the previously stated, why you’ll see an example about failure to meet deadlines in the script.

I will share here shortly. Step four is how in most situations other than termination, you would tell the employee how you expect them to improve to be success. But in an employee termination for the how step, you’ll simply share any details related to their termination, such as receipt of a termination letter, final pay details, continuation of benefits, how they can return company property, et cetera.

You’ll see this all outlined in the script shortly. Step five is, thanks again. You may be thinking, why would I thank someone when I am terminating? The answer is that I believe gratitude always has a place even in tough conversations. You don’t need to say, thanks for doing a great job, or thanks for your good work in an employee termination.

Simply saying, thanks for your work. We wish you the best is sufficient. Now, before I review phrasing for letting someone go, it is important to touch on a few and valuable tips to keep in mind. The first tip is less said best. Having a script will hopefully keep you on track and not have you end up saying something unplanned or overexplaining.

Saying too much can derail a conversation and confuse the employee about what is happening. The second tip is to take time to plan the what ifs in your particular situation. Since we are talking about an employee termination here today, you’ll want to think about these what ifs such as. What if the employee gets angry and yells or even gets violent?

What if the employee tells you that you shared misinformation? What if the employee gets defensive and starts trying to talk their way out of what’s happening? What if they keep interrupting you? It is so important that you not only list the what ifs, but also that you think about how you will handle it.

If each of those, what if situations actually happens? We won’t have time to go into detail on all of these what ifs in this episode, but I can quickly share some ideas to get you thinking, such as considering having a security person or other staff person there if you have concerns about violence. If this is an in-office termination, you will also want to form a plan for how the employee will collect any personal items and exit the building, keeping in mind that respect for them and avoiding situations where they could feel embarra.

For example, you may want to request that other employees vacate the space when that employee gets their things. You will also want to be thinking about how you will professionally stop the conversation from getting sidetracked if that happens. The next tip is practice. Once you know what you plan to say in an employee termination, consider practicing in front of a mirror to see where your body language looks like in these types of situations.

It is common to feel. But you want to come across as calm as possible during the conversation to ensure it goes as well as possible. Now that I reviewed the five step formula and a few tips to keep in mind, I will share a sample Employee Determination script. Of course, every situation is a little different, but I think this script will help you with keeping less said Best said in mind in your next tough employee termination Convers.

So let’s get to it. Here is a sample script. I will use the name, Joe, as the employee being terminated. Here goes. Hello Joe. Thanks for meeting with me. We are here today because we are letting you go. There have been multiple instances which have led us to this decision. For example, you have repeatedly missed work deadlines this quarter.

We spoke to you about this on April 12th and May. Since then, you have missed two additional important deadlines this month. This resulted in us upsetting and losing three key clients. Meeting deadlines is critical to our business success. So again, this is what led us to this decision. I have a termination letter here for you outlining your final check details, next steps with your insurance continuation, and contact information for me.

Should you have any question. Thank you for your work. We wish you the best. So that’s the end of the script. Be prepared to stand up if in person for the conversation and move the employee towards the exit. Do you have a question? Click the link in the show notes. Or if you’ve got other ideas and feedback about the show, send them to [email protected].

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