Even if you don’t work in the construction or manufacturing industry, chances are you have been witness to (or have heard from others about) organizational cutbacks during winter months. In my experience, December and January are the months of closures and layoffs – bad timing for the holidays, yes, I know. However, these months typically push the lowest production all year due to the nature of the industry.
What does this mean? Managers and Supervisors now have to plan for, conduct and manage what I call “The Dreaded Termination Conversation” or “DTC”. Just so you know… Managers hate these meetings too! Clearly it is for different reasons but it is hard to give difficult news without it snowballing into an avalanche.
So what do I suggest as a (misconceived) Career Grim Reaper? Research, Write a Speech and Rehearse.
Here’s the easy part: At one time or another, we’ve all read them – articles about how to terminate employees “the right way”. Some examples you may have considered are:
1. How to Fire An Employee: The Do’s and Don’ts of Terminating Employees to Keep You Out of Hot Water 
2. The Best Way to Terminate an Employee 
3. How to Fire Someone: Respectful Tips and Exact Verbiage for Managers 
4. How to Fire With Compassion and Class 
The list goes on. Managers should read these articles to get a better understanding as to which termination guidelines they should follow and why using those guidelines are important. For example; set the tone, make eye contact, be straight forward, make it short and to the point, and refrain from terminating on a Friday or Monday, etc.
Here’s the tricky part: Very few termination articles outline a clear speech Managers can use to mimic their DTC. For this reason, I would like to share a dialogue I’ve had a Manager use before:
Supervisor or Manager:
Hi Neil (or Nancy). Come in and have a seat. I have some bad news for you. As you know, the company has experienced a drop in production this winter due to the weather and the nature of our business. As a result, I have to inform you that your employment with us has been terminated as of today.
I’m sure you have questions regarding pay, benefits continuance, unused vacation time, a letter of reference and outplacement so I will let Sandy discuss this with you. If you have any other questions I may be able to answer them before you meet with Sandy.
If yes: answer clearly and concisely, with the use of facts (not confidential info).
If they have a question you do not know the answer to, say “I will get back to you on that”. Just be sure to follow up!
I understand this is difficult news but I need to collect company property from your work station and ask that you hand in your keys at this time (collect phone and vehicle keys, if applicable). If you need time before collecting your personal items you are welcome to go home and come back in a day or two. Or, if you would be comfortable with Sandy packing your personal items I can have them couriered to your home. Which would you prefer?
Neil (or Nancy). I want you to know that it was a real pleasure working with you. Thank you for all of your hard work. (Optional: If our situation changes, I could let you know).
If they take you up on the offer, be sure to make a note of that.
Are you okay to drive, or would you like me to call you a cab?
Show Neil (or Nancy)out or call a cab if need be.
Of course, you can tailor your message by substituting the reason for the termination but the rest of the message should remain the same. Remember – don’t make promises you do not intend to keep. If you don’t plan to call an employee back from a termination due to ‘shortage of work’, don’t! They will respect your honesty in the end.
Finally; REHEARSE! I can’t stress this step enough. If you don’t have an HR Professional to practice a “fake fire” with, use a close friend or family member (don’t use another employee). Of course, you can even rehearse your speech in a mirror if you’d prefer. Regardless, the more you run through your speech – the easier it is going to be during the DTC. Just don’t start sounding like a robot. Be genuine.
This is someone’s career, after all.
Good Luck 🙂