Who Else Should Be There
"Most organizations will want someone from HR there for liability purposes. In some cases, corporate security may need to be involved, says Van Vreede. Having a third person in the room, perhaps necessary depending on your company, can make employees feel uncomfortable. While in other companies the supervisor may say to HR, I feel comfortable telling Joe Schmoe alone and then HR can immediately follow-up.
HR also provides another function in the meeting. Aside from bearing witness, they are there with information for the terminated employee on 401k, final payments, severance and benefits data. This information, while might not be digested at the time is necessary.
Bottom line here says Phillips, "Unfortunately, you always need to think about what happens if I let this person go and they come back and say it was a wrongful dismissal".
What Should be Covered and How Long Should it Take
Experts also agree that the meeting should be relatively short. Depending on the situation the meeting should last between 15-30 minutes. "If it's a performance issue, the process should be 15 minutes or less. In a downsizing or reorganization, it may be a bit more involved, as the terminated employee will have questions about the layoff package," says Van Vreede. Phillips echoes Van Vreede's comments saying, "It's usually a pretty fast meeting. Once an employee finds out they are being terminated, they just want to get out of there."
That said, most employees while they will listen to HR explain the details of their severance or benefits won't actually hear it. They are for lack of a better word in shock. Phillips points out that the HR rep should always include a business card with the paperwork and be ready to respond to any questions the person may have once they've had a chance to absorb the situation.
Keep it short and direct. "It's human nature to try to fill the uncomfortable silence with words. Don't! Plan what needs to be said and stick to it," says Van Vreede. Once the meeting begins, you want to have the facts with you on why the person is being let go. This is a real living, breathing human in front of you. Look the person in the eyes and simply come out and say it. "Be very specific in telling them the reason," says Phillips.
Then give it a moment or two for the words to settle. While some employees may have seen it coming, as in the case of performance issues, others might feel blind-sided by a down-sizing or reorganization. In any case it's completely understandable that the employee being let go will need some time to wrap their head around the situation.
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