How to deal with emotional dismissals

No matter how employees react to the bad news, HR should always stick to the script – says one industry expert.

Anger and upset are par for the course during employee dismissals but one career transition expert says the key to managing emotions is simple: always stick to the script.

“I’ve seen situations where HR or the manager doesn’t have a very good script so they start going off on a tangent which takes them down a hole they don’t want to go,” says industry veteran Jeff Welton.

“They just need to keep it short, sweet and professional,” he added. “Shake their hand and thank them but also say it’s a decision that can’t be reversed.”

With over 30 years in the HR field, Welton is now the managing director of Verity International – a boutique consulting firm which works with organizations to ease employee transitions – he told HRM that employers need to stick to their guns is dismissal situations.

“When someone asks; ‘Why me? Who else knows? What went wrong?’ then you have to be ready for that but always stick to your script and always stick to your message,” he stresses.

“Tell them this was a business decision, we’re downsizing this department, your role was impacted, it’s nothing personal, it’s just a business decision,” he advises. “I hate to say it, but it’s very repetitive.”

Welton says it’s also important that HR professionals don’t try to over-soften the blow.

“Don’t talk too much yourself, don’t get emotional, don’t disguise the message or make promises,” he continues.

“I’ve heard managers say; ‘If it was up to me things would be different or I can put a really good word in for you,’ – that doesn’t help now, that’s not the time to do it. Just get to the point, keep it short, stick to the message, tell them the decision is final and explain next steps.”

While HR professionals and those in the firing position might want the experience over as fast as possible, Welton says it’s important to be patient while explaining the process.

“Even though they might not be listening, you’ve got to say it and repeat it. Prepare yourself emotionally too, listen, use silence, respond based on the person’s reaction.

“If you’re going through the package, go through it but be there for them. Say; ‘Here’s my number, you know when to call me, you’re going to have a lot of questions.’ If they’ve just heard the news, they’re not likely to be listening anymore so you might have to repeat things two or three times.”
When the conversation comes to a close, Welton says there’s always one golden rule to consider.

“Always, always, always, whether you’re a people manager or an HR person, when the conversation is done, stand up to shake their hand and thank them,” he urged.

“Often, they will not take your hand but I have sat with a number of people and the first thing they say is; ‘They never thanked me for my 20 years. They never even shook my hand. It was so cold.’

“As little as that sounds, it means something,” he told HRM. “Your goal is to make sure that the employee is treated with respect and dignity and they retain it.”

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