Termination and Household Move

No, it's not what you think, but close. Bear with me while I explain.

We have a particularly contrary, contentious, difficult, long-term (7 years) employee who has finally, in the eyes of management, "overstayed his welcome." He has managed to stay so long because he's (a) technically competent and (b) his supervisors come and go more frequently than a commuter train (but that's another story best told over a cold beer). Finally, his most recent (and most long-lived) supervisor has had it and has set the plans in motion to terminate.

Performance issues, writeups, counselings, etc. are all in order, we're ready to launch. The question I'm faced with (and have never had to deal with) is: What do you do when an employee has more personal stuff in his office than most people have in their homes (a tree, assorted bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, a favorite, personally-owned office chair, etc.) and how long do you give him to get the stuff out after a termination interview that undoubtedly is going to be very, uh, "delicate," generating a lot of animosity from the employee? His current supervisor knows him pretty well and I trust his predictions of the employee's response to being terminated.

My goal here is: Fastest departure, minimum disruption, minimum contact with other employees. Any input would be very much appreciated. Anybody been there, done that?




  • 18 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I have been exactly where you are. We terminate at the end of the day when staff have gone home. We escort them out after collecting ID and equipment and letting them gather their personal belongings. I had to stand with an employee for over an hour while she packed up her office. She had every star trek starship known to man in there.

    After that, we hd a similar situation. Instead of suffering through another uncomfortable hour long packing session, we approaced the employee a few days before d-day and told the to take most of the stuff home. We told him that a few personal belongings is fine, but to take the excess home. We told others in his work area the same thing. When we terminated him, it was much easier. It also cleaned up the other offices that were looking shabby.

  • The end of the day is probably the best way to do it for a poor performer who might not take things well. Have boxes ready, as I have seen it take an eternity to just find enough boxes. You will need to have someone observe what they are removing so company items don't walk off.
    In cases were things are not anticipated to go well I have IS turn off their computer access as they are coming into the meeting then go turn the computer off.
    If you think the person could, ahhh get violent then you need to give thought to having another person around or at least aware so that if they hear him beating the crap out of you and the supervisor the police can be called. I used to joke about this, but it is no longer a issue you can joke about as it happens to much. Remain even keeled, stick to the facts, be professional and as compassionate as possible. Good luck!
    My $0.02 worth.
  • With as much dignity as possible, allow the employee to take all of his posessions even if it means assisting in the packing and dollying out of boxes. Myself in his shoes, it would take me three hours or more to get all my stuff boxed and safely in a vehicle. But I didn't even count defrosting the freezer of my refrigerator. Give this guy the same dignity you would expect someone to give your mother. Don D.
  • Further, make sure that the supervisor, who is tickled pink that the employee is finally going, is on the same page that you are. I have seen lots of supervisors turn what should have been a routine event into a disaster because they did or said the wrong thing. Dignity and respect by all is the name of the game, even if not returned by the employee.
  • I have a long-standing practice of not letting supervisors utter a word during termination interviews. I've been burned before by doing so.
  • The suggestion to have boxes readily available is excellent. We have arranged to remove personal possessions on Saturday to help ease the stress. Myself and another manager were present to help move boxes and sort stuff. We found that the Xee was more subdued and less emotional having had some time to adjust. I would not advise doing it alone. Good luck!
  • Don't forget to have a witness. Otherwise, the employee could sue you and/or the company and say "he told me I was fired because I am (insert age, race, disability, gender, marital status, etc).

    Make the Supervisor sit in. I find that it makes the Supervisor responsible for the termination, as well. That way it isn't always HR who handles the dirty work. It makes Supervisors give some more thought to whether or not the employee could be helped to improve.
  • In an effort to give the employee as much respect and human dignity as possible, I usually give them the option of packing up their stuff right away, or waiting until Saturday to come in and do it. Two reasons: Saturday allows them to cool off and retain composure, as well as save face in place of other employees. However, some employees want to be done and over asap to put this behind them, in addition to the fact that I don't know how comfortable I would be with the company that just fired me holding my valueables. Therefore, unless they show violent tendencies(which thankfully haven't happended)I give them the choice. It just pays to treat others well, even in hard situations.
  • I appreciate everyone's input. All valuable suggestions (especially having the boxes handy). I think, with this particular employee, we are probably going to insist that his office be cleared prior to exiting the building on the evening of the termination. There are a couple of reasons for this (one of which is a safety concern), and his supervisor and I will just stay as long as it takes to get it done. Heckuva way to spend a Friday evening!

    Thanks again for all your help. I don't care what anyone says about you guys, you're all right... usually... on a good day... with a tailwind...

    Seriously, thanks for everything! :-)

  • Why wait until late Friday to terminate? Wouldn't it be better to do it during the week so that the employee can start the process of looking for work immediately vs. having the entire weekend to stew about it and "annoying" his family or drinking to much and getting into trouble?
  • I have heard the argument that it is better to do it early in the week and do it early in the morning (an argument shared by the HR consulting company with whom we contract). I don't buy it.

    Doing it at the end of the day avoids embarassment and humiliation, lets an individual retain his/her dignity, and minimizes the risk of disruption that can be caused by a departing employee. When I was in school, my prof advocated Fridays because it gives the terminated employee the opportunity for reflection over the weekend and provides a "cool down" period (obviously he can't retaliate against fellow EEs or HR people if the office is closed).

  • We had a Controller who had several personality problems similar to your employee. He also considered his office his home and surrounded himself with a myriad of stuff. Unknown to us, he even changed the lock on his office door so no one could enter without his knowledge. When the decision was made to terminate him, we developed an exit plan exclusively for him. The first thing on the agenda was to pack his office the night before (after he went home) the termination date. All the boxes were sealed and placed in a locked office near the building exit. We removed his access to the computer system. We changed the locks on his office, MIS area, etc. The following morning the President and I waited in the lobby for him to arrive. We took him to my office and the deed was done. Secuirty escorted him to his car and helped pack it with the boxes we had packed the night before.

    It was not a pleasant ending but much quieter and smoother than leaving it to chance.
  • We have tried several ways and have found it's best to do it late in the day on Friday. In our organization, we have done it earlier in the day and the departing employee goes downstairs and puts "on a show" in front of employees and others causing much disruption.

    It causes much less confusion and embarassment to the employee if they are terminated after others have left. Usually the employee wants to go ahead and get his stuff right away and leave. If the employee has an office full of stuff, I usually give them the option. Most start packing up right away. If there is a carload of stuff, this could take quite a while. I always notify IS before the termination so the computer access can be turned off.

    Having boxes handy is also a very good idea. Nothing worse than sitting around looking at a terminated employee while you are waiting for someone to scroung up some boxes for you.
  • Right........that gives him an inordinate amount of time to reload.
  • Well, if he has a speed-loader it won't make much difference, anyhow x;-)
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 02-05-03 AT 03:55PM (CST)[/font][p]Nice job on the emotion icon para, Did you notice Don? Now maybe you can teach me as they do NOT work on my keyboard!!
  • We recently closed a plant and terminated several long-service salaried employees who had made their offices into "homes." What we did was send them all home and tell them to call for an appointment to come back later in the week after working hours to pack their stuff. We had boxes ready (although some of them brought their own) and me and our corporate VP of HR on hand to help pack, answer questions, etc. Considering the amount of emotion in the air, we had very little trouble and only one individual dissolved into tears (after she was packed and in the parking lot.)
  • Oh...forgot to tell you...we run them through a scanner before we bring them in for termination to make sure there are no hidden weapons.

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