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4 Tips for Reducing Risk in Employee Separation

4 Tips for Reducing Risk in Employee Separation

In the day and age of constant recording and documenting daily lives, people are also recording themselves while working and, more specifically, while getting let go from their jobs.  The hashtags #getlaidoffwithme and #watchmegetfired are full of videos of people recording their termination/separation from their job and talking about their workplaces.  You may have seen these videos and then what ends up happening is the CEO of these companies have to make statements about how poorly the termination was handled and issue an apology.  Why? Because what it exposes is how horribly companies handle separation meetings.  It’s a whole thing that’s best to be avoided.

So, what are you supposed to do as a small company? 

Be prepared and always remember that there is a human at the other end of this.  It’s not just a role that may be getting eliminated or even if it’s a termination for cause, it’s a person whose livelihood is no longer there.

As it relates to the videoing portion, what you can’t do is create a blanket policy banning video or recording devices from the workplace just in general.  What you can do is focus on confidentiality, proprietary information and privacy policies that would prohibit people from sharing any company information that falls into those categories.  It’s also worth re-evaluating any tech use policies to ensure that any company-provided technology is used appropriately and for the sole purpose of completing the job.

At the same time, as a business owner or manager, you have to be realistic and make sure that your policies and work environment are progressing to be compatible with current technology as well as social behaviors.  What happens in society and the progression of the use of tech or various “trends” in societal behavior directly impact the workplace.  It isn’t like there is a door that opens when someone goes to work, and the “outside” world is left behind when the door closes.

Being prepared and having a pre-determined course of action that follows all applicable employment laws, is focused on the human that it’s impacting, and is done appropriately can significantly reduce a company's exposure to liability and the risk of “exposure” and help everyone feel more comfortable.  Here's 4 Tips for Reducing Risk in Employee Separation:

  1. Be prepared with talking points – keep it to the point and be honest with the employee.  If they are being let go for performance, say that.  If it’s a position elimination, say that.  Stick to your script and be confident and concise in the delivery.

  2. Know who is involved - the separation meeting should always be done by the person’s direct manager and 1 witness, whether HR or another neutral party/manager.  It should never be someone the employee doesn’t know. 

  3. Gather company equipment – know ahead of time what company equipment or materials the employee has so that they can be easily retrieved or returned.

  4. Provide next steps information – prepare a separation letter for the employee that simply confirms their last day of employment and then outlines what happens with any applicable paid time off payout, benefits coverage, their final paycheck, and any severance (if applicable).  It’s important to have this all taken care of for them because once they hear they no longer have a job, they don’t hear anything else, but these are all things that they will want answers to once the news of the job loss settles in.  It is a simple document that can be provided to them during the conversation or emailed to their personal email after the conversation.

Be prepared and focus on creating an environment where people don’t feel like they have to record what’s going on or feel like they have to protect themselves with video evidence if they separate employment.  Let’s not go viral for all the wrong reasons when it can be easily avoided.

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