Dismissal with dignity
Dismissing an employee is an unpleasant experience for the manager in charge, but it is particularly unpleasant for the employee, who may go into a state of shock, lose his or her self-esteem and become concerned about the future. If, on top of this, the dismissal is also handled in an undignified manner and the employee feels badly or unfairly treated, then the consequences are more long-lasting. The turmoil that may arise among the other employees becomes more pronounced when the dismissal is effected in an appropriate fashion. It is essential that a dismissal is handled in an as dignified way as possible to ensure that confidence in management is maintained.
First of all, a dismissal has to be face to face, giving the employee a fair opportunity to ask questions. Besides, if possible, an employee should never be dismissed on a Friday as it is necessary that a chance to follow up the dismissal is available once the employee has recovered from the first wave of shock.
As a manager, you should be well prepared for the interview by having planned the opening in advance, possibly in writing if you are not comfortable with the situation. Tell the employee at the beginning of the interview that this is a dismissal and give a relatively short explanation why. If the reason for the dismissal is linked to the business or affairs of the company, you can explain about these and why this specific employee has to go. If the reason for the dismissal is linked to the conduct or capacity of the employee, you have to specify the reason, for instance lack of skills, lack of cooperation or other circumstances. The oral explanation must be consistent with the explanation given in the written dismissal letter, which the employee is required to sign to acknowledge receipt. The employee will most likely not be able to concentrate on the details communicated during the interview.
It is quite natural that the dismissal may provoke a reaction from the employee. This may be in the form of anger, or the employee may become upset and cry or perhaps become paralysed. Allow for the employee to scold or cry, but do not change the explanation and do not make any promise of mitigating circumstances, re-engagement or the like. As a manager, you must remain loyal to the decision of dismissal, and you should not inject your own position or opinion into the interview. The dismissal situation is also hard for you as a manager, but you should not mention it to the employee, who already has plenty to worry about.
When the employee seems to be ready for the next step, you can explain the terms of the notice period although these details are also included in the written dismissal letter. You can for instance choose to read aloud the dismissal letter and explain its contents. It is important that you are familiar with the terms and conditions and are able to answer any questions the employee may ask. For instance, if the employee is not placed on garden leave, how is the notice period going to progress and how will responsibilities be transferred, or how should the other colleagues be informed? If the employee is placed on garden leave, you should explain the conditions of this type of dismissal. Explain the practical circumstances, for instance when and how to return all property belonging to the company, such as mobile phone, personal computer, etc.
After the interview
When the employee has acknowledged receipt of the written dismissal letter by signing it, you should schedule a follow-up interview approximately one week later. At that point, the employee will have had a chance to come to terms with the dismissal and to conduct a dialogue with dignity. Here the parties can agree on the practical arrangements in connection with the last day at work: is it standard company practice to organise a farewell reception with gifts and a speech, or does the employee prefer to leave the company unnoticed?