#26 Compassionate Termination

We encourage a compassionate approach to termination.

We know that many of our clients hire employees, work with them for years, and still want the best for them after the relationship has run its course. Compassionate termination attempts to preserve dignity, self-esteem, and connection — even in the midst of a challenging process.

There isn’t one right way to compassionately terminate someone, but we have some recommendations.

6 best practices to keep in mind:

1) First and foremost, the termination should not be a surprise. To the extent possible, the employee and their manager should have had multiple conversations about the situation or individual issues, in as close to real time as possible.

2) Before termination, take care of logistics. Have a final paycheck ready and a plan for collecting equipment, removing access, returning personal possessions, etc. Be ready to communicate about severance (if applicable), continuing health insurance options, and any resources you’d like to provide (information on applying for unemployment, professional outplacement help, etc.).

3) Make it a graceful exit. Before the termination conversation, create a plan for communicating about the termination, both internally and externally. Know which exit logistics you’re comfortable ceding control on. Clarify how you can support their career in the future (are you open to providing references or introductions to other firms?).

4) During the termination conversation, be both straightforward and direct at the outset: “I have some bad news — we’re terminating your employment.” You can discuss reasons why but may want to speak with an attorney first.

5) Provide space for the employee to speak and be heard — but focus the conversation on acknowledging and appreciating their contributions, their strengths moving forward, and next steps in the process. Ideally, this conversation is short. Much more than 20 minutes or so and you’ve lost control of the conversation.

6) Prepare a follow-up communication regarding details. Know that a person being terminated is often not in a mental state to hear or remember these details during the initial conversation.

Know that it might not go well, and that’s okay. You’ve done your best provide a dignified end to a working relationship.

Thanks to Abby Enders at Boly:Welch for this blog.


Gary Langenwalter


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s