Thursday, August 4, 2011

Terminations and Grace

For those of us who have spent years of our HR practice doing employee relations work, we know full well how difficult terminations can be.  From the initial coaching with leaders, to more detailed investigations and ultimately the separation meeting, releasing employees is for me the absolute worst part of the job.

But it has to be done.

It's Worse For Them
Although the impact of terming an employee is often a challenge, it's important to remember that the impact is far worse on them than it is for us.  Sure, they've behaved in a way that now requires action, but that doesn't mean their life is any less important than our own.  Their income is about to be disrupted, perhaps for an extended period of time.  Their family is going to feel significant additional stress.  Their sense of self-worth might also be an issue as many of us define who we are, in part, by what we do professionally.

Grace Is Always Good
The concept of grace can take on several forms but generally is associated with offering kindness in some way.  The opportunity for leaders during these stressful times is to remember the power of grace.  No, we should not expect the employee being terminated to thank us afterwards; but how we choose to behave during the meeting is powerful.

Are you nervous?  Are you angry?  Are you disappointed?  None of these emotions matter once you've arrived at this point.  That journey is complete.  Now it's time to be professional, communicate what must be done effectively, and to show grace.

How About You
What mindset do you bring to the termination meeting?  Are you focused on "showing them who's boss?" Or, do you see that moment as an opportunity to handle things in a very different way?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of jonathanjones2


  1. Not to get too cerebral but this post and the photo remind me of one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes:

    The quality of mercy is not strained.
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven...
    ...mercy is above this sceptered sway;
    It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
    It is an attribute of God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show like God's
    When mercy seasons justice.

    I did a bit of editing, but I think you get the gist. The concept of Grace has always been synonymous with Mercy in my mind (Not to be clouded by feelings of pity or self deprecation)

    Great stuff!

  2. Many thanks for the comment John. It's a tough topic to work through, I appreciate your perspective!