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How to manage terminations and separations the right way

Updated: Mar 12

Welcome to the least favorite part of your job. Making the decision to terminate an employee can be hard. Having a good employee resign is even tougher. Separations are inevitable, but having good practices in place can help ensure a smooth transition and reduce risks. We have some considerations for you to think about when faced with this responsibility.


The Documentation

Keeping track of all correspondence that is relevant to an employee's separation is imperative. This includes verbal and written resignations, any disciplinary action taken, a log of attempts made to contact an employee who has abandoned their job, or text messages and photos showing the employee at the ballgame when they were supposed to be on a disability leave. If an employee were to ever claim wrongful termination, you would have the documentation to support your decision to terminate.


The Who, What, When, Where

When possible, try to schedule a termination at the end of the employee’s work day or when there are fewer employees around. Choose a private location away from others to hold the meeting. Not knowing how the news will be received by the employee, consider having a neutral second person in the room with you.


The Conversation

At this point, most likely the employee is aware that the employment relationship is coming to an end. Stick to the facts. Use a professional tone and be clear in your delivery of information. Your decision is not up for negotiation.


The Final Pay

This is where you might get tripped up in separating an employee. Timing is everything and it varies by state. For example, in Colorado final pay must be provided immediately at the time of termination. Some exceptions may apply to this rule, so be sure to review your state’s regulations before withholding and/or deducting from a final paycheck. Oh, and don't forget to include any unused, accrued vacation time.


For other separations in Colorado, like a resignation or job abandonment, final pay is due on the next regular payday. In the event of an employee’s death, most laws say the final paycheck goes to a surviving spouse or a designated beneficiary. Refer to your state's regulations before distributing the check.


The Company Property

Sometimes, the return of company property can be like weening off coffee. The last thing a fired employee is worried about is returning to work with the company property they were issued. Arrange a time before or after work hours, when the employee can drop by. The first thought that might go through your head is to hold their final pay until everything is returned. While there may be allowable deductions from final pay for unreturned company property, use caution and familiarize yourself with your states' law before withholding that final paycheck.


Note: When company property is issued to an employee, it's a good idea to have a form for them to sign, listing the property. Then, the items can be checked back in and signed off on when returned.


The Exit Interview

Not every separation is suited for conducting an exit interview. But the ones that are, can be an enlightening moment. Exiting employees may share with you information about the organization you weren't aware of or things that should be addressed to avoid future departures. Turnover is costly. Losing good employees because of say, a poor manager, is even more so.


This post just touched on some considerations when it comes to managing terminations and separations in your organization. Still have questions? We will be discussing more aspects of the process in this month's training on March 31, at 11:00 A.M. You can always register and view the recording at your convenience. We hope you'll join us.

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