Termination Terminology

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Wisconsin called me the other day to talk about a pending employee termination that he was going to conduct. As he told me, the termination was long overdue and now it was simply time to complete the process. Despite that acceptance, like many managers, supervisors, and owners, he was uncertain about what to say, fearing that if he said the wrong things or said too much, he may run the risk of potential litigation.

He was right.

I told him to keep it simple, with the entire dismissal meeting lasting no more than 10-15 minutes, with him, the employee, and a witness as the only attendees. Aside from other peripheral administrative logistics (e.g., preparation, paperwork, leaving the premises), I informed the business owner that terminations typically occur for one of two reasons: a chronic performance problem or a major policy violation. To that end, I suggested he use the following two scripts, whenever terminating an employee.

If the termination is due to a chronic performance problem, the following fundamental script should be used as an outline:

  • “As you know, you and I have had several meetings over the past several weeks/months to discuss your performance-related issues…” (e.g., interpersonal skills, accuracy of work, not wearing PPE).
  • “Despite that documented coaching, your performance has not improved to the required level of your position and is having an impact on company operations.”
  • “Due to that fact, today will be your last day of employment with this company.”

If the termination is due to a major policy violation, the following fundamental script should be used as an outline:

  • “An investigation has provided us with evidence that you violated company policy…” (e.g., sexual harassment, alcohol use, timecard fraud) on (specify date).
  • “As stated in the Employee Handbook that you signed on (specify date), that policy violation has the consequence of employee termination.”
  • “Due to that fact, today will be your last day of employment with this company.”

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.