Generally, a termination meeting should involve two management personnel:
- The manager responsible for termination, and
- A witness.
The witness may take notes if helpful. The presence of a witness, preferably one of the same gender as the terminated employee, will help to negate any claims of harassment or inappropriate action during the termination meeting, and provide an eyewitness to the process.
Also, consider security. Sadly, the recent history of violence in the workplace means that employers must be prepared for the possibility of an outburst by the employee either during the termination meeting or soon afterward. If the employer has any reason to expect the possibility of violence, it is wise to take extra security measures. This would include escorting the employee from the building and perhaps having security guards on standby.
The tone of the meeting should be one of dignified professionalism, and it should be run in an orderly and efficient manner. The manager responsible for informing the employee of his or her termination may wish to make notes outlining key points to be discussed with the employee. It is important to remain professional and objective. The employee must know that the decision is final and the employee will not be able to debate the decision. If the employee becomes emotional or agitated, the managers conducting the meeting must remain calm. This is a time for the use of “active listening” or similar skills. No employee is happy about being terminated. However, a civil, professional termination meeting is less likely to give rise to an employee lawsuit or similar action, than one that becomes heated and intemperate.
The employer should clearly explain a simple and legitimate reason for termination; if the employee complains that the termination is for an unlawful reason, it is important to listen carefully and document the allegations. The employer also needs to discuss how future references for employment will be handled and plan for return of company property both in the office and at home.
Finally, the employee must be given the opportunity to gather his or her personal belongings, if any. Whether the employee is allowed to return to the employee’s office or work station alone or whether the employee is escorted by security or a manager will depend on all of the circumstances and prudent judgment.