Paper Trails

Termination Meeting: Mistakes to Avoid

Having to terminate an employee is usually not an easy task. Even if the termination is warranted, the process can be difficult to navigate. When planning on when and how to proceed with the termination meeting, there are many things to consider and mistakes to avoid.

Common mistakes to avoid in regards to a termination meeting

Here are things to consider before, during, and after a termination meeting.

  • Understand employment at-will.
  • Keep proper documentation regarding employee behavioral issues and poor performance.
  • Follow company policies.
  • Hold the meeting in a private location and include other managers or members of HR.
  • Know what you are going to say.
  • Take notes and make documentation after the meeting.

Lets take a look at each topic more in depth.

Understand employment at-will

Before deciding to terminate an employee, make sure you understand what at-will employment is. Employment at-will is a contractual agreement between an employer and an employee where the agreement can be terminated at any time, for any reason not prohibited by law. Under law, employees cannot be terminated for the following reasons:

While all terminations come with risk, terminating an employee for one of these reasons can result in potential legal cases. Make sure you have valid reasons and proper proof for termination before making any decision.

Keep proper documentation

This is a key step in preparing for a termination meeting as this is the basis of the termination itself. When an employee displays disruptive behavior or poor performance in the workplace, document the situation immediately. Present the disciplinary action to the employee as each occurrence happens. Have the employee’s manager draft the warning and have HR review it. A properly executed termination should not come to the surprise of the employee as they should have been issued warnings ahead of time.

Follow company policies

Create a company wide standard for the steps of disciplinary action and for termination meetings. The steps of disciplinary action should be laid out in your employee handbook clearly for employees. Once you have a plan in place make sure to stick with it to stay consistent across departments. An unorganized or unclear termination process can result in confusion for the terminated employee and potential discrimination claims against the company.

Hold the meeting privately

When it comes time to terminate the employee, hold the meeting in a private location. Never terminate the employee in front of their coworkers. This will keep employee confidentiality and can promote a positive and honest discussion. Make sure to have at least two other managers or human resource members present at the meeting. Also, try to choose a convenient time of day to conduct the termination. Doing so during the lunch hour or at the end of the day will be a more private time and conducive to the employee.

Know what you are going to say

Having a plan on what you want to say and how to say it is important to conducting a smooth meeting. Writing a script and reading it through can relieve any stress you have before the meeting. Be professional and courteous to the employee while also being truthful to ensure the employee receives the seriousness of the meeting. Do not over or under exaggerate the reasons behind the termination. Rather, be direct when giving your reasons behind your decision. Provide examples of the disciplinary actions previously taken that has led you to this point. Finally, do not waver and stick to your decision, regardless of the employee’s reaction to their termination.

Take notes and documentation after the meeting

At the conclusion of the meeting, make sure to take notes of who was present at the meeting, what was said during the meeting, and how the employee reacted to the decision. File these notes along with the disciplinary paperwork in the employee’s personal folder. This is important should the employee try to take any legal action against the business at a later time.

Sample Forms

Checklist for Conducting a Termination Meeting

Disciplinary Action Notice

Termination Letter