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Showing the exit cordially.

CHANGE is consuming businesses today--economic uncertainty, currency fluctuations, mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, restructuring, new strategies, new cultures, new technologies, deregulation, privatisation, and rightsizing. The menu of change options continues to grow as organisations find ways to respond to increased competition and changing economic realities.


To thrive in today's increasingly competitive environment, employee skills and attitudes must be sharply aligned with the needs and goals of the employer in order to implement business objectives and priorities. Even the best-managed and most profitable businesses may at times be compelled to retrench staff. Restructuring is not a one-off exercise but is based on continuous improvement.

Termination, retrenchment, and job loss--these few words in our business vocabulary evoke much fear and anxiety. These emotions are not felt only by the persons who will lose their jobs, but also in almost equal measure by the manager responsible for delivering the notice.

From the company's standpoint, the decision to terminate an employee or group of employees is fraught with potential legal, public relations, and business consequences, as well as being possibly traumatic for the manager undertaking the termination. From a personal perspective, terminations can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating.

Is there a concept such as successful termination? Is there a way to balance the needs of the organisation and the employee? DBM's experience, in working with organisations undergoing restructuring for more than four decades, has shown that the answer is a resounding "Yes".

So what can be done to do it better? We recommend the following process to ensure you conduct terminations successfully.

Prepare the Materials

Assemble written documentation if the termination is performance related. If the termination is due to job elimination, explain the rationale. Prepare all severance information in writing: notification letter, salary continuation/severance period, benefits, outplacement counselling, and other pertinent information.

Prepare the Message

Write out the script you will use during the meeting and the information you will convey to remaining employees. Try to list two or three factual reasons for the termination. Keep everything short and to the point.

Arrange the Next Steps

Schedule additional meetings related to human resources, superannuation, and outplacement. Review what should be done with personal belongings. Specify when the employee should say "good-bye" and leave the organisation.

Prepare Yourself Emotionally

Don't assume personal responsibility for the termination: it is a business decision based on business needs. Acknowledge your anxiety and be sensitive to your feelings throughout the process.

Prepare your approach and talk about your feelings with the human resource professionals and outplacement consultants. Do not discuss your plans with your colleagues or friends. This will avoid rumours and gossip before you are ready to conduct the termination meeting.

Anticipate Employee Reactions

Role-play or practise dealing with anticipated reactions, such as shock, anger or denial. Comprehensive preparation will benefit you and the employee by providing structure and objective information that will keep you focused in the midst of a difficult meeting.

We recommend the following Do's and Don'ts for conducting the termination meetings.

To help you to prepare for the meeting, it is important to prepare for the questions you may be asked by the employees. In DBM's experience, the following questions are most frequently asked. You must be ready and able to respond professionally.

Terminating an employee or group of employees is a difficult management responsibility, accept it. Even though there is no easy way, there is a better way. It is possible to conduct a successful termination. Our experience in working worldwide with organisations undergoing restructuring has proven it can be done provided you are well prepared.

Dr Sattar Bawany is head of transition coaching practice with DBM Asia Pacific.

Do invite the employee to sit down
Do get right to the point
Do explain the actions taken and the reasons
Do listen to the employee and wait for a response
Do restate the message if necessary
Do use your prepared notes/guidelines
Do clarify the separation date
Do give an overview of the separation package
Do explain the logistics for leaving the company
Do provide appropriate written materials
Do close the meeting within 15 minutes
Do escort the employee to the next appointment


Don't say "Good Morning," "Good to see you," or
"How are you?"
Don't engage in small talk
Don't use humour
Don't be apologetic
Don't defend, justify or argue
Don't threaten
Don't sympathise
Don't try to minimise the situation
Don't make promises
Don't personalise the anger
Don't use platitudes like "I know how you feel," or
"You will be just fine".

Question                            Suggested Response

Why was I selected?                 The selection was based on a
Who made the final decision?        number of factors, including
                                    individual job skills, work
                                    experience, organisational needs,
                                    tenure, and performance. These
                                    decisions are always difficult,
                                    but they were reviewed and
                                    approved by management.

What recourse do I have?            Employees are always free to
                                    talk with a higher level of
                                    management. However, because
                                    management has already carefully
                                    reviewed the decision, it is
                                    unlikely that the outcome will

Can I continue to work for a        No. We feel it is in your best
period of time?                     interest and the organisation's
                                    that you utilise your time
                                    exploring employment opportunities
                                    outside the company. That is also
                                    why we have brought in an
                                    outplacement firm to assist you
                                    in preparing for your job search.

Can I be re-hired?                  You are eligible for re-hire.
                                    However, the probability of that
                                    is unlikely. That is why you
                                    should concentrate your efforts
                                    on finding employment outside
                                    the company.

I want to talk with Mr/Ms X         Of course you are free to make an
(for example, the manager's         appointment to see him/her, but I
boss).                              must tell you that he/she is
                                    fully aware of the decision and
                                    supports it.

I can't understand why I can't      Before this decision was made,
be considered for something else?   every effort was made to explore
                                    other options.

How can you do this to me after     The reorganisation was necessary
so many years of service?           for business reasons.
COPYRIGHT 2009 Singapore Institute of Management
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Article Details
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Author:Bawany, Sattar
Publication:Today's Manager
Article Type:Cover story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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