How to Terminate an Employee HumanelyHere’s how not to fire someone:

On August 6, 2013, during a conference call with onsite employees and approximately one thousand remote workers, Tim Armstrong, AOL’s CEO and Chairman, abruptly and publicly fired Abel Lenz, creative director of Patch, an AOL news division.

The reasons behind the abrupt termination are less relevant here than the way Armstrong went about it. (He later apologized for the incident, but Lenz was still fired.) The point is, while it’s never a pleasant task, there are better, more compassionate ways to terminate an employee.

Jada Graves, Careers Editor at U.S. News, offers helpful tips for firing an employee with compassion and dignity in an article for U.S. News Money.

Six Tips to Terminate an Employee with Compassion

No to firing on Friday, yes to early in the week. Terminating an employee on the last day of the workweek “gives the fired person Saturday and Sunday to feel miserable and simmer in a 48-hour holding pattern.” It also leaves the individual with little opportunity to immediately contact people in his or her network for advice and support.

Taking the action sooner in the week (Monday or Tuesday) offers the fired employee “a better launch-pad for planning his or her next steps.”

Don’t schedule a formal after-the-fact meeting for other employees. A formal meeting to discuss the action you’ve taken “might lead to unwanted questions” about the situation—“plus it’s just a little morbid,” Graves says. You don’t want this to be the only thing on everyone’s mind for days afterward.

Instead, if you feel it’s necessary, “go around to employees individually to quickly explain that their colleague is no longer with the company”—adding that you’re not at liberty to share any more details.

Share the news on a need-to-know basis. Some people within the organization should know about your decision beforehand. Depending on your company’s structure and culture, these people might include the soon-to-be-terminated employee’s direct supervisor, an appropriate person within Human Resources and, if necessary, your IT department.

Don’t ad-lib your way through the firing conversation. Both HR and your company’s lawyers should help “script what you may say and what you absolutely shouldn’t.” Winging it, on the other hand, can aggravate the situation through misunderstandings or, worse, lead to a lawsuit.

No perp walks. There’s little in life as mortifying as having to pack up your office belongings and be formally escorted out of the building, while your (now) ex-colleagues look on. This is as true for a chief financial officer as a front-line receptionist.

As Graves notes, “This type of treatment breeds resentment in the fired person and affects the remaining staff by inspiring gossip and clogging productivity.” Try firing the individual at the end of the day, with as much dignity and privacy as possible.

Offer assistance if you can. No one expects you to offer a professional reference (“You did just fire this person, after all”) but consider sharing a job lead if there’s something the newly fired individual “is better suited for.” Anything to help ease the difficult situation will be greatly appreciated.

The decision to terminate an employee will come up at some point in every business. How you go about it says a lot about you and your leadership style.

What guidelines do you follow when firing an employee?

What to Do When a Key Employee Leaves Your BusinessIn today’s competitive job market, it’s not unusual for employees to move from job to job. But while the departure of a key employee may come as a blow to your business, there are ways to handle it gracefully, and keep moving forward.

Adam Toren, co-founder of, offers valuable tips for coping with a trusted employee’s exit from your organization.

Four Ways to Handle a Key Employee's Departure

See Things From Their Point of View

In a wide range of businesses, but especially major tech companies, key employees get poached all the time. It’s easy to understand if one of your workers is drawn away by the promise of a bigger paycheck, but as Toren notes, “there are numerous other reasons for wanting to jump ship.”

He advises business owners to ask if the employee is willing to write out the reasons behind their decision. “Understanding their reasons could be a turning point for you or your company.”

Part Ways Amicably

Assuming the employee is leaving your business on good terms, mark their last day on the job with a modest celebration (“such as serving an ice cream cake during lunch or a trip to the local watering hole”).

If, however, the situation isn’t particularly pleasant, Toren suggests penning a note expressing your regret that things didn’t work out, and thanking the individual for all he or she has contributed to the business.

Start the Hiring Process ASAP

The best thing to do in this situation is to start looking for a replacement immediately. The hiring process takes time—placing job postings, reviewing resumes, scheduling and conducting interviews, making a decision—and putting it off only hurts your business.

First, Toren says, look within the organization. Is there anyone on the team who can step in and take over the departed employee’s duties and responsibilities? Anyone who might be able to do so with a minimal amount of training? Hiring from within is the best first move when a key employee leaves. It demonstrates to the rest of your team you value their work, and want to keep them on for the long run.

If such a move isn’t practical, turn to your colleagues and staff for quality candidate recommendations (while of course advertising the position in all appropriate venues). After receiving applications, narrow them down with a particular eye on who might best fit within your culture.

“Ask yourself if they are someone you’d be able to spend countless hours with during a crunch-time weekend,” Toren says.

Stay in Touch with Key Employees

There’s no reason you and the departing employee must never cross paths again. On the contrary, it makes good business sense to stay in touch. Staying mad at an ex-employee or pretending to forget he or she ever existed is foolish and short-sighted. Instead, keep their contact information on hand and, after an appropriate interval, drop them a line and ask how their new job is working out.

Losing a valued employee comes with the territory. But when you part ways on a friendly note, Toren says, “people are more willing to throw business, partnerships, and other networking opportunities your way.” And the people who still work for you will see your commitment to leading with dignity and principle.

How do you handle the departure of a key employee?

What to Do When a Key Employee Leaves Your BusinessOne widely-circulated statistic holds that today's average 25-year-old has already worked more than six jobs since his or her 18th birthday. Even older generations job-hop every couple of years; through their 40s, boomers changed jobs about once every two years. Thinking about how these figures apply to your business, you can certainly expect that you'll lose staff every year, and in all likelihood, from time to time you will lose a key employee.

But while the departure of a key employee may come as a blow to your business, there are ways to handle it gracefully and keep moving forward.

Adam Toren, contributor to, offers tips for coping with a trusted employee’s exit from your organization. (more…)

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