How to inform employees about dismissals

We’re dismissing an employee. But how to tell the rest of the team about it?

I don’t know if there is one good way of informing employees about dismissals. It’s always a difficult moment with emotions. But it’s worth thinking in advance how to communicate it to all employees to keep them informed but also to respect a dismissed person. The best way would be to have an offboarding program.

The closest employees inform in person
Firstly, we should inform a team or a department, where the dismissed employee worked. The best way to do this is to meet with a team and inform all the members. It should be done by a supervisor (e.g. accompanied with a representative of the HR department). The fired person shouldn’t attend this meeting. It may be replaced by sending an email, but as far as I am concerned it should be done directly, face-to-face to give other employees a chance to ask questions and also because such crisis and soft cases should be informed in this way. It’s all about psychology. You can write everything in the email, but it’s more difficult to say all those words aloud in front of the team. Such a way of communication is also more authentic, more convincing, and with emotions – so there is a chance that you’ll not say it too strongly as you can write it in the email.

Inform the rest of the team
Now it’s time to inform other employees. I’m sometimes asked by companies if they should do this. Yes, they should. To build the communication openness, to be authentic, honest, to reduce a number of  rumours, to have an order in a cooperation, meaning to inform employees who will replace the dismissed person in their duties and who they should contact now.  

How not to inform about dismissals:
1.  With no respect to the dismissed person. No matter what the reasons to fire were, you should freeze your emotions. Let’s not offend and not release any useless facts. There is no more sense in such behaviour.
2.  When the dismissed person is present. I know a company where the fired person has to walk around all the department with the supervisor who informs other employees that this person was just fired (no, it is not a joke). Don’t do that!
3.  Justifying yourself and the company. It’s good to talk about reasons of taking such a decision, but the supervisors who took the decision about ending the cooperation with the employee should not justify themselves and the company.

How to inform about dismissals:
1.  In a kind way inform about the end of the cooperation. Give a date and information who will replace this person in their duties. If you haven’t had such the information yet, inform when you’ll be able to provide details (e.g. that the recruitment process is in progress or it’ll take place soon).
2.  Thank for the cooperation. I know it may be controversial in some cases and sometimes reasons of dismissing are complicated, but as far as I am concerned it’s always worth thanking for the past time. I’m sure there were not only bad moments.

3.  Provide the reasons of dismissing. We don’t have to go into details, but it’s worth explaining why such a decision was taken. This’s my opinion. The employees will ask about it for sure and without such an explanation rumours will appear. We don’t avoid an information circulation about the reasons. We may say then:
•    they presented the low performance at the annual work evaluation,
•    that the attitude to duties and coworkers were against our company’s rules,
•    that we have lost the trust in this person (it’s controversial, but there may appear some really dishonest situations, which may lead to a lack of trust).
Let’s be careful with words used while giving the explanation, not to have them use against us later. The dismissing reasons should be premeditated and explain in a short and easy way.

It is worth giving a reason
Why do I think it’s worth talking about the dismissing reasons? If we fire one person and we have serious reasons, those reasons were probably also visible to other employees. If one disappointed in their duties, others might have seen it as well and may also have suffered from it, because it influenced their duties. Giving such reasons may clear the atmosphere, show how difficult circumstances we take such decisions in and that they’re not groundless. An employee who performs according to the company’s expectations, knows then what they may expect.

A story of one dismissal
And at the end I’ll tell you a story of one dismissal to communicate which happened to me many years ago. It was Friday. I went with my supervisor to the HR department in a company we worked for to take part in a meeting. While walking through the corridor on the HR department floor, the HR Director saw us and asked for a word. She said she had a communication task for us. She was to fire one person from her department and asked us to prepare an email about it to send to all employees after the weekend. The person to fire was a manager we were going to meet in a moment! The next hour we spent in the meeting looking into the eyes of the manager-to-fire, knowing that she wasn’t aware about what was going to happen after the weekend. The meeting was about our both departments’ plans for the cooperation in the upcoming months.
Working in the internal communication may be hard….


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Photo: MB