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Can the Termination of an Employment Relationship be a Positive Experience?

Oct 11, 2019
Kimberley Wallace, Senior Associate in the EmployAssist HR Team, writes for Butterfly Effect Coaching on how to make the end of an individual's employment more constructive, even in the most challenging of circumstances. 

The following content is taken from Butterfly Effect Coaching.



The end of an individual’s employment is significant occasion for most. Not only for those moving onto pastures new, but also for their employers. Particularly for those newer businesses who, after a phase of growing, are faced with their first leavers. Businesses particularly struggle when the departure is involuntary. However, the good news is that employers can take steps to make the exit process more constructive, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Voluntary termination:

  • Retirement – more often than not, retirement will be a positive exit for the individual, although some may not be looking forward to stopping work altogether. Celebrate the milestone with retirees and their length of service with the company. A retirement announcement or speech and parting gift will be gratefully received.
  • Resignation – the majority of resignations will be due to an individual obtaining new employment which is usually better for either their career path or financially. Or they may be moving away. However some resignations may be due to working conditions or internal relationship issues. Try to deal with these issues in advance when you become aware, even if they have submitted a resignation. You can either deal with this informally or through the company’s formal grievance procedure. It could be that with the smallest of changes or with more support, you could avoid the departure altogether.

Involuntary termination:

  • Redundancies – it’s a difficult process for everyone involved. Ensure the process carried out is fair and adheres to ACAS guidelines. Communicate as much as possible with the individuals affected to keep them informed of their position. In my experience, it’s a lack of communication that makes an employee feel disrespected, uncared for and aggravated.
  • Settlement agreements – if you’ve got to this stage the situation is likely to already be contentious. Don’t make it worse by messing around with lengthy negotiations. Try to conclude the process as soon as possible. Offer a reasonable package, part of this may include giving the individual a bit of say in what announcement is made about their departure and what reference is given for their employment. This gives them a little more control in the situation.
  • Dismissals – as with redundancies you are obliged to follow a fair process for dismissing for conduct or performance.  Failing to do this will result in the individual feeling mistreated and you risk appeals, greivances or tribunals!  Always hold a disciplinary outcome meeting to fully explain the reasons for dismissing.  Give the employee the chance to put their case forward at the disciplinary hearing.  If it’s based on fact, the employee will find it harder to challenge.

Top tips for exits:

  • Take a consistent approach for voluntary departures – if one leaver gets a personal thank you and department announcement and the next leaver doesn’t, this can make some individuals feel underappreciated and resentful towards the business.
  • Carry out exit interviews – it’s a great way to obtain direct employee feedback so you can understand reasons for leaving.
  • Remain conscious of your company reputation – word of mouth and websites such as GlassDoor can ruin a company’s reputation, even if its only one or two disgruntled ex-employees.
  • Keep everything strictly confidential with involuntary terminations – office gossip will always fuel the fire of contempt.
  • Always follow a fair process for redundancies and dismissals – failure to do this could mean you end up in a tribunal!

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