Using a Script for the Termination Meeting

Learn the importance of writing down your script before the termination meeting to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation.

Next, make sure you have a script. I cannot emphasize this enough: Write down, almost word-for-word, what you want to say. In an emotionally-charged moment, coherent thought becomes difficult to hold on to, and comments or phrases you use here can easily be taken wildly out of context or misinterpreted and wind up as quotes discussed in a court of law. Write out your script, run it past the HR folks, and—I mean this seriously, too—practice it with them. Literally. Roleplay it out. Ask the HR person to coach you through a few scenarios so that you can have some replies at hand if and when they become necessary.

Your script needs to convey precisely why the separation is taking place, but you don’t need to go into too much detail—assuming you have done one or two negative performance reviews before now, the details are already in those reviews (and in your notes). Your purpose in including them here is to make it clear that this is not “on a whim” or “just because you don’t like me,” which are common reactions employees have when terminated.

Make sure you use the past tense: “Your employment has been terminated,” not “will be terminated.” This is a fait accompli—a thing that has already happened or been decided before those affected hear about it—and you are passing on the news.

Many, if not most, HR teams will have an employee termination checklist, listing each and every one of the things that need to be done (some by you, some by them, and some checklists will even have the list of things that the terminated employee needs to do before they exit the building, which you will likely need to guarantee). If they don’t have one, you should write one up for yourself, and again, run it past the HR folks to make sure it’s got everything they need, and to see if it includes things that shouldn’t be there.

Once you have your script and your checklist, all that remains is to wait.

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