What to Do after the Termination Meeting

Learn how to effectively communicate the employee's termination to the rest of the team, while maintaining confidentiality.

After the employee has returned all the items that need to be returned, and exited the building, go get a drink. Seriously. Go take a moment to be by yourself, and make sure you’re in a good place emotionally. The ex-employee is done for the day, but you still have work to do.

You will likely get questions from the rest of the team: What happened? Was so-and-so fired? Are they fired fired, or just on some kind of enforced PTO? (I have never heard of any company that actually has “enforced PTO,” but I’ve heard that question more than once.) Your team will have questions, and really, those questions will all be a mask for the real question they have: “Am I next to be fired? Is this going to somehow jeopardize my employment, too?” You will want to preserve confidentiality, but the fact that the chair next to them is now empty and devoid of any personal possessions deserves at least some acknowledgement, so don’t be afraid to say, “I can confirm that so-and-so’s employment was terminated” and leave it at that. You do not need to say why or what prompted the decision, and in fact, depending on what legal agreements were signed, it may be violating the company’s side of the agreement to say anything more than that.

The employees asking those questions, though, will be the ones who’ve never seen somebody get fired before; much of the rest of your team will go silent, most likely. In fact, depending on the situation, they may actually feel relieved that the poor performer (or behavioral issue) is no longer on the team, and will feel a sense of relaxation and relief. Now they don’t have to worry about compensating for the poor performer, or tolerating the bad behavior, and can focus on getting more of the work done.

It’s also a good idea to mention the fact that so-and-so was let go to anybody who wasn’t already aware, such as in the next standup or team meeting, so that if there are any additional questions (that you can answer—remember, confidentiality still holds), you can address them in front of the whole team. Again, this probably best done at a team meeting rather than an email, but it’s more important the message get out within a few days of the termination—if the group isn’t scheduled to meet for a few weeks, then send the email and be ready for questions.

Once all that’s done, it’s down to the business of figuring out what work they’d left undone, or what stories or tasks were assigned to them, and working with the team to reallocate the work. You’ll also now have a free open “headcount” on your team, and you’ll want to start taking on the necessary steps to hire somebody to replace them.

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