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Why was Joe let go? If asked, don’t tell

by on
in Firing,Human Resources

Since you can’t take back the words after they’ve left your mouth—or take back the email after you hit the send button—you need to think about what’s appropriate and what’s not before you speak (or send). Post-termination communication is one area in which managers can get into trouble.

Faux pas often occur when emotions run high. While a termination is obviously an emotional time for the employee being let go, keep in mind that as a manager, you may be just as emotional, perhaps angry about the employee’s behavior that warranted the termination. Other workers probably won’t be shy in asking why the employee is no longer there.

Management must be discreet in responding.

Managers should follow these best practices when communicating about an employee’s departure.

•    Communicate only the bare bones of the situation. It is not necessary to indicate whether the employee quit or was fired, or reveal why the employee is leaving. Just give the employee’s last day of work and who will take over critical duties, if applicable.

Example: “Joe Doe’s last day with the company will be May 25. We wish Joe well in his future endeavors. Joe’s duties will be handled by Jane Smith until a replacement is found.”

•    Refuse to answer employees’ questions about an employee’s departure. Employees who ask about rumors they’ve heard about the reason an employee has left should not receive a confirmation or a denial.

Example: “Out of respect for Joe’s privacy, I will not discuss the details of his departure with you. I would respect your privacy just the same.”

•    Send a separate and nonspecific email regarding a policy violation. It might sound like a good idea to use an employee’s termination to show the staff that the company is serious about enforcing its policies. Since that could lead to a courtroom battle, instead, refresh employees’ memories with a separate communication.

Example: “To clear up any confusion surrounding the company’s expense reimbursement policy, please keep in mind that you may not submit expense reports prior to your trip based on estimates, and then amend the report after the trip. Expense reports must have corresponding receipts attached. As always, our policies are consistently applied to everyone and compliance is mandatory on everyone’s part.”

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