Conducting terminations in-person is always preferable, but shifts to remote and hybrid work models can make this difficult or even impossible. Letting an employee go is never easy, and it can be even more challenging when done remotely. Some managers are still learning how to manage a remote workforce under normal circumstances. Inevitably, an employee will need to be terminated, and management must know how to conduct the termination legally, effectively and with compassion. Here are some best practices for terminating a remote employee to make this difficult task a bit easier and mitigate legal exposure.
Most pre-termination processes are the same whether conducting a termination in-person or remotely.
- Document. Ensure there is a legal basis for terminating the employee and collect all pertinent documentation demonstrating the reason for the termination, previous counseling sessions and/or warnings, performance improvement plan documents, etc. Proper documentation can make the difference between easily defending a lawsuit or paying big fines and damages.
- Decide who will conduct the termination and who will be a witness to it. Usually, the most appropriate spokesperson is the employee’s direct supervisor. Having a witness to the termination call demonstrates the decision is collective and final. A witness can also attest to what was actually said on the call should that later come into question during legal proceedings. A representative from human resources or the company’s lawyer may serve as a witness to the termination.
- Prepare talking points. Generally, they should be as follows:
- I appreciate your time to participate in this call.
- I’ve asked X from HR to join our call.
- As you know, we’ve had numerous talks over the past few months about your failure to meet performance expectations.
- On our last call, I detailed the mandatory steps you had to take to meet performance expectations. I gave you a deadline of X to improve your performance.
- Although we’ve given you ample time and opportunity to meet performance expectations, you have not. Therefore, we are terminating your employment effective today.
- X from HR will reach out in the next few days to schedule a follow-up call to review termination paperwork and answer any questions you may have.
- Thank you for your service, and we wish you the best in your future endeavors.
- Alert IT. In a remote situation, proper communication and coordination with IT is essential. Because equipment such as a laptop and iPhone will be collected later, IT must remove the employee’s access to internal networks as soon as the call starts. Other IT considerations include access to company servers, social media profiles, web-based software, contacts, client information and the company’s website. It may be necessary to back up critical information before terminating the employee.
Conduct the Remote Termination
While the means of relaying the termination is vastly different in a remote situation, the message and tone is the same.
- Use a video conferencing platform. Companies conducting business remotely have systems in place that allow video conferencing such as Zoom and Slack. While it may be tempting to conduct the termination by telephone, it’s not a good idea. Being on video allows the reading and understanding of the participants’ body language and facial expressions. Delivering tough news by telephone appears less empathetic.
- Announce presence of the witness. Begin the call by stating that HR is participating in the call.
- Be compassionate. Losing one’s income and occupation is devastating and very stressful. Care should be given to delivering the news thoughtfully and kindly. This doesn’t mean beating around the bush and beginning the call with small talk. Asking about the employee’s weekend plans only to follow with, “We are letting you go” is terribly insensitive. Prepare responses for the various ways the employee could react to the news. Some employees accept the news quickly and calmly while others may become very upset and angry. Have a prepared, empathetic response to each scenario.
- Keep it simple. Don’t get drawn into a lengthy discussion or negotiation. A possible way to quickly end this type of conversation is, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but our decision is final.”
The termination process isn’t complete once the video call is over. Here are important post-termination actions.
- Documentation. Both company representatives should draft a memo to the employee’s file documenting what was said during the meeting.
- HR follow-up. HR should schedule a video call with the employee to review termination paperwork, explain COBRA procedures, address severance information if applicable, arrange for equipment return, answer questions, etc.
- Update job description. Review and update, as necessary, the terminated employee’s job description to ensure it is up-to-date and correct.
- Job posting. Work with the terminated employee’s supervisor to draft and post a job posting if the position is to be filled.
- Notify staff. The employee’s termination likely affects co-workers who may have developed a close working or even personal friendship with the terminated employee. It’s important to deliver the news of the termination promptly without compromising the employee’s privacy or dignity. Address any of the team’s concerns and let them know the actions you’ll take to ensure a smooth transition.
Get Smart HR
While the workplace continues to evolve, so do Smart HR’s best practices for clients. Smart HR is your go-to resource for full cycle employment issues and concerns, including when it’s time to part ways with employees in-person or remotely. Don’t wonder if you are handling remote terminations properly, call today.