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How to Handle Employment Terminations with Empathy

When parting ways, have adult conversations.

Terminating an employee is never easy. As leaders, we have a responsibility to handle these difficult situations with care and compassion. 

Rather than jumping into formal documentation and performance improvement plans, have an “adult conversation” first. 

  1. Acknowledge and name the issue. “It’s clear things aren’t working out.”

  2. Ask how you can help them improve and determine if the role is truly not a good fit. 

  3. Offer to help them find a more suitable position, either within your company or elsewhere.

If the employee continues to struggle, you can revisit that adult conversation as a coach and supporter with mutually aligned interests. 

Explain why things are not working out and explore how you can support their transition. With empathy and open communication, terminations don't need to be adversarial. 

Having adult conversations shows your humanity as a leader. It also builds goodwill with remaining team members. They see you trying your best to set the departing employee up for future success.

How do you handle employment terminations at your company? I welcome your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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