What Not to Say in Termination Meetings

Being involved in employee terminations can be difficult.  Even if the person’s supervisor does the talking, the task is unpleasant.  It is best to develop a short script and make sure participants are on the same page with what to say.  The script should be basic, and you should stick to it.  If the conversation expands, what started as a difficult discussion could get much worse or open your company to scrutiny or liability.  Here are some comments to avoid:

  1. “This has nothing to do with performance,” or “this is not job related.”  The employee may go searching for other reasons.  That moment of trying to spare feelings can lead to allegations of improper motives.
  2. “This is as hard for me as you.”  While the meeting is unpleasant, it is much worse for the employee losing a job.
  3. “I know how you feel.”  Don’t presume.  The most empathetic thing you can do is give reasons and get it over with.
  4. “I’m sorry.”  Even if true, this type of comment can cast doubt on the decision.
  5. “We have carried you for a long time.”  The comment serves no useful purpose at this stage. You need to end the relationship, not pile on. Plus, more importantly, if you are like most employers, prior evaluations may not support the comment.
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About Andrew (Andy) Wampler

For over a decade, I have provided legal services to businesses and individuals in Northeast Tennessee. I spend time litigating breaches of contract, medical malpractice, and commercial disputes and have worked on a number of transactions. I also advise businesses, working much of my time on healthcare and employment matters.

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