You’ve done all you can. You have coached, counseled, referred, trained and you have done it over and over again. You have invested in your team member, hoping that the investment will yield retention.  However, you have now realized, it’s time to terminate employment.

Great leaders never look forward to such a conversation. Instead, they are persistent about helping team members be successful and retaining talent, especially in these days of a full employment economy. However, effective leaders also know that a poor performer can destroy the morale of a team.  A poor attitude can destroy a team’s culture.

As you consider the termination of an employee, keep in mind that you not only want to treat the employee with honor, dignity and respect, but you also want to be mindful of the impression you leave on the rest of your team.  Leaders who treat departing employees kindly and fairly will positively influence the remaining members of their team and preserve the culture. Leaders who treat departing employees kindly and fairly will positively influence the remaining members of the team and preserve the culture. Click To TweetThink about the outcome you hope to achieve in the conversation. The goal is to preserve dignity and help the employee get to the next best opportunity, while protecting the company from claims, too.

When the time comes to have the difficult conversation, what are the best practices a leader can follow?

1. Choose effective timing. Avoid terminating someone on a Friday afternoon. It means the individual is unable to do anything about their circumstances until Monday morning. They can’t pursue another job or even seek advice from career counselor until Monday morning.

2. Tell the truth. Be clear about the reasons for the termination, providing examples  of poor performance as needed. Don’t spend a lot of time in the set-up and get to the point as quickly as possible. If you have followed good performance management process, then the termination  should come as no surprise to the employee. Avoid making promises you cannot keep such as a commitment to a positive reference.

3. Offer resources. Ultimately, we want the people in whom we have invested to be successful, even if their success is not found in our organization. When possible, be generous with outplacement services and severance packages. The life-cycle of talent begins at recruitment and ends at resignation, termination or retirement. How the relationship ends with an employee impacts the morale of people who remain in the organization.  It’s worth a few hundred, or even thousand dollars, to leave as positive of an impression as possible on the terminating employee and those within the organization.

Effective, influential leaders know that people decisions are the most important decisions that a leader makes. Terminating an employee is the most difficult of those decisions. Follow these conversation tips to help you conduct the conversation around this difficult decision.  The decision and the conversation will still be difficult, but hopefully, both the organization and the departing employee can successfully navigate the difficult termination process.

Learn more about effectively selecting, stewarding and sustaining talent in my new book, Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture that Wins the Hearts of Customers.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as legal advice. Follow the advice of legal counsel when terminating an employee.