An employee opens a notice of employment termination

Terminating an Employee – The HR perspective

Terminating an employee is something that no employer or manager looks forward to. When it is necessary however, you may be wondering how to go about the process in a way that’s appropriate and courteous to the employee. The Career Contacts HR and Recruitment teams* have years of experience with both filling roles for employers (our favorite part) and assisting them with the termination process. So, to help you with this often-daunting duty, here are some steps to consider:

*please note that we are HR professionals and not employment lawyers; we always recommend that details surrounding the legalities of terminations go through an employment lawyer. Career Contacts proudly works with a team of employment lawyers that we are happy to put you in contact with!

1. Stay on point – less is more

We know that this is not an easy conversation for either side; but we have an obligation as managers, leaders and HR professionals to be as kind and respectful as we can through the process.

  • Being direct, to the point and succinct is kind.
  • Being clear, honest and transparent is kind.
  • Reserving judgement, and being the “bigger person” is kind.

One of the key pieces we focus on effective communication.

Termination meetings are not the time to bring up old wounds, or get into debates – the decision has been made, it should be final, and now is the time to provide the details of what happens moving forward.

Pro Tip: The best way to enter into these conversations is to come in well prepared (this is a common theme in all the advice we give!)

2. Documentation – for them and you

Legally speaking, each termination will have it’s unique requirements on severance packages, written notice, just cause to release the employee etc. That being said, we recommend an employer still choose to ease the pain and shock of the termination by providing documentation and clear instructions on what happens next.

Over and above fair compensation, we believe that it is important to ensure they are aware of the support they are being provided, their options and next steps in their career.

While the person terminating the employee is thinking about the conversation in the present moment, the employee has likely moved far beyond to think about how this will affect all other areas of their lives. They are moving through this process emotionally and deserve the space to process and think things through without being required to answer too many questions in the process.

Pro Tip: Ensure your team has an approved checklist which includes all of the information they need to document, as well as a reminder of all of the information they need to provide the employee. If you run the meeting professionally and efficiently, it will provide for a much better employee experience.

Clear and consistent documentation is critical for employers to properly, effectively and legally terminate an employee. The recommended checklist allows companies to be equitable, and consistent in their decision making, and reduces the risk of bias or discrimination.

Reach out to for your customized checklist
3. Before you Conduct a Termination Meeting

Here is where we like to tag in our employment lawyers. Before you get to any conversations, have you truly identified your reasons for terminating someone, and confirmed that you are not conducting a termination that is discriminatory or outside of legal requirements.

You need to ensure you are providing adequate notice, compensation, documentation and support – this is not something that should be done casually and without proper thought.

Before you start, it is also critical that you check for any safety concerns, assess any internal risks and ensure that your people are well prepared, and well equipped.

Pro Tip: Always have two people conduct the termination; one that will do the speaking and one that will bear witness, and support any required documentation and note taking.

Along with the termination checklist, Career Contacts recommends having a separate checklist that incorporates all departments associated with a termination such as IT, security, leadership and the department members.

4. Conduct an Exit Interview

While not all employers chose to give an exit interview after terminating an employee, we at Career Contacts strongly suggest this as a final step in the termination process. Exit interviews should not be reserved for staff that choose to leave of their own volition.

Staff that are being terminated should also be able to provide their thoughts on how things were being run, whether they were provided the right resources and opportunities etc. This is such a valuable learning exercise and ideally conducted by an external third party.

Pro Tip: Do not try to conduct the exit interview in the same meeting as the termination; this is inappropriate and does not respect the candidates need to process the news.

Exit interviews in general should also never be positioned as mandatory, but rather, an opportunity to share their thoughts and address any questions or concerns. It must be optional, it must be no longer than 30 minutes (20 minutes is our sweet spot) and must be about the employee sharing – not you.

If terminating employees is not something you and your team feel equipped to do, it is important to seek out support externally. Our process at Career Contacts is collaborative, immersed in empathy and kindness, and with both the employee and employer in mind.

For more helpful content on this topic and other tips for employers, stay tuned to our blog!