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Planning Is Important When Terminating Staff

A major retailer that has closed half of its stores nationwide since a new parent company purchased it in February. The retailer issued a script for managers to use when announcing store closings to employees.


The detailed script for store managers was shared via an internal memo. It tells managers to begin by praising employees on their hard work in the wake of the retailer filing for bankruptcy and reorganizing under the new parent company.


Managers are then to say that the organization has continued to encounter difficulties that necessitate the closing of several retail stores. The script says that the decision "was taken very seriously" and was not an easy one to make.


Finally, the script included a brief timeline of events and plans for the coming months. Hayley Peterson "Leaked Sears document reveals how store managers broke news to workers about layoffs and closures" (Nov. 08, 2019).


Commentary and Checklist


Family employers will likely not ever perform large-scale reductions-in-force, like in the above matter. Nevertheless, individual terminations require proper planning and a thought-out script similar to what was mentioned above.


Speaking off-the-cuff when terminating a staff member can increase your exposure and lead to uncomfortable situations.


First, never terminate a staff member impulsively. Plan when and where you will meet with the staffer and make sure you have a plan for what to do if the staff member becomes angry or violent. Always perform terminations in private with a witness present.


It is a good idea to create at least a basic outline of what you will say to the staff member. Make it clear at the beginning the purpose of the meeting: "It is a difficult decision, but I have decided to end our employment relationship".


Provide a reason or reasons why: "We are selling the New York apartment and no longer need staff in New York."


Always listen to what a terminated staff member says. Then, without parroting what they said exactly, repeat for them what you heard: "You would like us to provide a written recommendation for employment so you can present it to future employers. We will take your request under consideration."


Family employers can help reduce the risk that a staff member will leave angry or have reason to claim wrongful termination by following these additional termination steps:

•      When terminating any staff member, always treat him or her with respect and fairness.

•      Anticipate how staff might react to the stress of termination and never have a termination conversation when you are angry or upset.

•      If a member of your staff is charged with terminations, make sure he or she performs the task with the utmost professionalism and stays calm even if the staff member erupts in anger.

•      If litigation is a concern, then consider a severance agreement. In order for a waiver of liability contained in a severance agreement to be valid, the employee must "knowingly and voluntarily" agree to the waiver and special requirements apply to those departing staff members who are age 40 or older.

•      Always have an attorney review your severance agreement before offering it to a terminated staff member.

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