Dirty divorce or good friends for life? Parting with employees with separation management

I’m sure you’ve had to let a lot of people go in your career. And you probably don’t associate all the best feelings with these experiences. Maybe you even kept an employee here and there just because you wanted to avoid the conflict. But there is a lot of potential in making these processes more amicable or even – yes, in a way – positive. It starts with seeing an employee not only as a wheel in the system but as the most valuable asset that stands behind every successful company, a brand ambassador of significant potential. However, retrenchments, layoffs, early retirement as well as numerous other occasions, like sudden lockdowns induced by a global pandemic, may force you to let employees go, giving the central stage to a lengthy and not always pleasant process of separation.

How do you handle divorce?

Separation can trigger negative and irreversible consequences. I actually like to put this professional process into personal terms. What emotions does separation trigger in your employee? This process, more than anything, needs attention. With that in mind, separation demands thought-through management, if avoiding it altogether does not seem to be an option.

Separation is a double-edged sword that can be equally damaging for both an employee and a company: while former may lose the job through involuntary termination and an uncertain future, the latter may eventually lose a high-performing talent to another company leading to potential losses in the company’s overall performance. In addition to this, a company may ultimately put itself in danger of receiving negative public attention as well as spoiling the climate among its own employees.

On the bright side: all the potential negativity mentioned above can be significantly reduced. Professional care and outplacement services for the dismissed employees are an integral part of separation management. You can provide programs that aim at easing a forced leave and assisting the affected employees to navigate the jungle of the job market. And just like in a divorce: It’s not just about who has the better lawyer…

Separation management – how it works

Three phases are common for separation process: pre-termination, termination and post-termination phases. The first one includes detailed planning and step-by-step evaluation of potential risks for both company and a leaving employee. The second phase concerns the actual declaration of employee’s termination as well as guidance and support in dealing with termination. The post-termination phase focuses on retaining trust of the remaining employees.

What remains relevant to all three phases is that they should to be handled with sensitivity and discretion, but most importantly without injuring the relationship and burning bridges between a company and an employee. Thus, internal practices towards leaving employees include positive signaling and acknowledgement of their work and achievements, as well as increased chances of possible employment renewal in case of changing conditions.

Retaining customers is another aspect associated with employee separation that should be taken seriously. In the end, a former employee may become a valuable contact in a different company.

So, make your divorce a source of parting as better people. You’ll be needing that!

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