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Turning a Termination into a Training Opportunity

Firing an employee is a tough task and nobody likes to do it. But smart managers can put a positive spin on a negative situation.

Posted by Dawn Lomer on March 12th, 2012

Every cloud has a silver lining. You may not be thinking that as you sit down to deliver an employee the news of his or her termination. But the outcome of workplace misconduct can be positive if you take the opportunity to use what you’ve learned to move the rest of the company forward.

It all starts with how you handle delivering news of the termination to the other employees. And sometimes the best way to handle it is to not handle it at all.

“If there’s no gossip or rumors following the firing of an employee, there’s really no reason to bring more attention to it,” says attorney Eric Meyer, former partner in the labor and employment group at Dilworth Paxon LLP. It’s sometime just best to keep negative news as low-key as possible.

Neutralize the Poison

If there’s gossip in the office, on the other hand, it’s a good idea to address the issue with employees. “Gossip and rumors can really poison a workplace,” says Meyer. “In that situation, you may need to have a brief meeting and explain the circumstances behind employee A’s departure.” Ignoring the gossip and concerns that other employees have about the termination may create an atmosphere of nervousness and mistrust.

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It’s a good idea is to present the facts of the termination without too much detail or opinion. A simple explanation of the reasons for the firing and the failure of measures taken to correct the behavior should do. This will likely confirm what the other employees already know and it’s a good way to stifle any exaggeration and gossip that may have started.

Opportunity for Training

If the termination was for repeated, pervasive misconduct, that was tolerated until it reached the point of action, there’s a chance that other employees have witnessed this tolerance. Any sign that other employees are engaging in similar misconduct should be addressed quickly.

“Maybe use that as a springboard for a training session,” suggests Meyer, adding that you don’t necessarily have to draw attention to the connection between the training and the termination.

“If an employee is terminated for sexual harassment, you don’t necessarily want to say to the other employees that we fired A because he was sexually harassing B,” he says. “Just arrange to conduct anti-harassment training in the workplace, without mentioning A specifically.”

Reassuring Employees

Handling a termination fairly and addressing remaining issues through communication and training sends the message that you don’t ignore to misconduct and that you are serious about eradicating it. It shows employees that they will be treated fairly and clarifies what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable.

Nobody likes to work in an atmosphere in which some people are getting away with misconduct and management isn’t addressing it. Acting on misconduct with a speedy and fair termination shows employees that you care about their welfare too. “It reinforces to employees that you have their back,” says Meyer.

Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Manager of Communications

Dawn Lomer is the Manager of Communications at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.

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