Over the next several weeks we are going to look at the fine points of termination policies and why we need them before it’s time for an employee to exit our organization.  For clarification, I use the term termination for any employee exiting the organization from layoffs to discipline to resignations and everything in between.  These policies help create clear end of work guidelines and legal protections for employers and employees, along with many other reasons.

Typically, any time an employee needs or chooses to exit an organization it can be a time of high emotions.  The policy can also help steer managers and employees who are frustrated or angry to appropriate and consistent practices. 

So, let’s start with what I consider the easiest exit meeting – Documented Policy Violation

First off, I’m going to assume you have a strong Progressive Discipline policy (the old 3 strikes and your out rule is very common).  If you have this in place and your managers document the behavior of an employee, you are in a safer place legally.  If your managers have also had conversations with your employees about correcting this behavior the employee should have some idea that a termination is imminent.  If they aren’t having those meetings those managers aren’t doing the employee any favors and could be opening your organization up to legal problems in the future. 

In this section of the termination policy you need to ensure the following have been addressed:

  • Did the employee understand the policy or procedure they were violating?
  • Was the employee given additional training to update any skills related to this policy or procedure?
  • Was the employee given adequate time to improve on their behavior related to this policy and procedure?
  • Did the manager document discussions with the employee, training provided, follow up meetings, and additional communications?
  • Did the manager explain, in writing, that without improvement the employee would have further discipline up to and including termination?

All of this leads to the termination meeting with your employee.  The employee has been given several opportunities to improve the behavior in writing and told each time that further behavior will lead to the next step in the policy, up to and including termination.  Hopefully these meetings have happened over the last 90 days so that you are also communicating quickly with employees when there is a concern. 

During the termination meeting ensure the following:

  • Have a witness available, an HR professional and the manager is usually enough but another manager or someone on the leadership team can step in if needed
  • Final documentation related to the behavior
  • Any items you need to collect from the employee before they leave the organization (paperwork, keys, phone, computer, etc.)

I know my fellow HR professionals out there are coming up with lots of examples of how these steps aren’t followed consistently or situations that might require an immediate termination.  We will be digging into these items along with resignation of key staff and layoffs in the next few weeks.