Aside from some movie-character sadist bosses, few, if any, employers enjoy firing anyone. Obviously, however, it has to be done from time to time.
In an article for Harvard Business Review, David Siegel says he’s led three businesses, managed thousands of employees, and overseen hundreds of terminations, and he says he has always followed a standard practice to make firings as matter of fact and by the book as possible: “be direct, keep it short, walk the employee out the door, shut down access to email, and so on.”
Recently, however, Siegel says he’s tried out a new approach, one he feels is more humane to the employee being terminated and better for the broader company culture and business. It’s called “transparent separation.” As the name suggests, it’s a more upfront approach than the quick-and-dirty standard process.
“With transparent separation,” Siegel says, “you don’t blindside an underperforming employee or fire him outright. Instead, you encourage him to leave on his own by letting him know he is going to be let go in time and needs to start looking for a new job ASAP.” Siegel says he has taken this approach with many employees, and they inevitably thank him for it.
Here’s how it works.
There’s no place with ambiguity in any termination, and transparent separation is no different. It has to be clear that the decision is final. This prevents the employee from trying to negotiate to keep his or her job out of a sense of false hope.
Have a Timeline in Mind
Siegel doesn’t recommend having a strict departure deadline at first; however, he typically puts a time frame on clear progress on the job hunt—roughly 6 weeks for more junior employees and 2 to 3 months for more senior employees.
Be Flexible to Allow Them to Interview
“Employees of course have to be allowed to leave the office during work ours for interviews or other search-related activities,” says Siegel, “but I ask that they minimize these absences and keep them brief to avoid raising questions.” Still, keep in mind that you share a mutual goal: helping employees find an opportunity that will be a better match for them and for you.
Actively Assist Them
Siegel says he has actively worked to assist employees in their job search by reviewing résumés, making introductions, and offering to serve as a reference.
Transparent separation is a novel approach to the termination process. We’ve discussed the basics of how it’s done in practice, and in a follow-up post, we’ll talk about the benefits.