When you’ve fired someone, it can sometimes feel like a relief. You’ve gotten rid of the source of the problem! Now everything will be better! And the odds are good that things will be better … eventually.
But in the meantime, you have a team to manage that is shorthanded and potentially confused or afraid. Communication is key if you’re going to move forward smoothly and effectively.
State the facts, but don’t overshare.
While it will be very obvious to most people if someone has come to clear out their desk, you’ll want to send a general email to your team as soon as the termination has occurred. “Today is Beatrice’s last day. There will be a meeting tomorrow to discuss workflow moving forward. Please see me if you have any questions.”
If the termination is a layoff, you might want to include well-wishes or similar sad-to-see-them-go sentiments, but if the employee was fired for cause, it’s usually best to keep the details under wraps. Nobody wants to feel that their personal failures or incompetence would be allowed to be a subject for public discussion under any circumstances, and there’s no benefit in everyone knowing Dana wasn’t following up with clients quickly enough. By giving your terminated employee some privacy, you’re showing your current employees that they can expect the same respect when it comes to their own struggles.
An exception to this is if the employee in question was engaging in egregious behaviors such as harassment and you want to reiterate that such things are never acceptable and result in immediate termination.
Tackle the workload issue.
The simpler the interim solution, the better. If there are others doing similar work to the terminated employee already, it can make sense to shift some of the work to them. It can also be an opportunity for a more junior employee to take on some additional responsibilities. This is especially true if you have one or more employees who might be interested in applying for the role in a permanent capacity.
Know that priorities will need to be addressed and some work may need to be set aside for a time in order to avoid burnout. Bringing the team into this conversation early on and asking them for help developing a solution can result in much better buy-in than simply assigning additional work, which might otherwise cause resentment.
You’ll also want to look at your own workload. If you are going to be heavily involved in the hiring process, that will take time away from your ordinary operational tasks. How will you manage your time and workload? If your schedule and availability is likely to be impacted, make sure your team is made aware of this as well.
Nip gossip in the bud.
Speculation is natural when someone is terminated, but it’s also unhealthy. There are generally two reasons for this kind of gossip: one is simple schadenfreude and the pleasure people take from backbiting about others’ failures, which is never helpful. The second comes from a place of fear: if Jon was terminated, could I be next?
To tackle this second source of gossip, remind everyone of your progressive discipline policy. Remind them that, while you can’t share the details about other people’s work, terminations are never a surprise. Short of gross misconduct, there are processes in place to allow people to improve their work. If you have particularly good employees, this is a good time to tell them how much you appreciate them.
The better your communication, the more confident everyone feels.
Looking for more help in dealing with employee terminations? Your copy of our New York State Employee Termination Kit is just a click away.
For more information and insights into the laws, best practices and complexities around terminating employees, check out our resource page, A Complete Guide to Employee Terminations. It's an all-in-one page that includes thorough insights, instructions and plenty of links to other helpful resources.