man in suit with packed box of office belongings
From keeping an employee termination checklist to making sure you communicate with your other employees, there are several steps to take before and after firing an employee. — Getty Images/WillSelarep

Firing someone impacts your entire company, not just the person getting fired. You'll want to ensure you have a plan to handle not only the termination itself, but the aftermath among your remaining team members.

A coworker’s departure can change the tone of the entire office and, in some situations, cause other employees to fear for their own job security. Here’s what to do after you let go of an employee to ensure a smooth transition.

Keep an employee termination checklist

If your company doesn’t have a termination checklist, be sure to create one that works within the scope of your company’s policies and practices. This checklist will keep you on track both during and after the termination of the employee. It can also assist in terminating the employee’s accounts, benefits and other company assets so you don’t forget any steps in the process.

[Read: How Do I Know It’s Time to Fire Someone?]

Acknowledge and address the firing decision

While it’s important to tread lightly when explaining the reasoning behind an employee’s termination, being as transparent as you legally can with your team will build trust and respect with the remaining team members within the company. After letting an employee go, gather your team and allow them to voice their concerns.

Don’t be afraid to let them know what you can and cannot say for legal reasons. However, honestly answer any questions about their own job security and how the termination may impact them in the immediate future. Having this meeting and open communication will also help stop rumors before the office gossip starts. Any gossip in the office can be damaging, but gossip surrounding a termination has a tendency to quickly decrease company morale.

[Read: Are You a Compassionate Boss? Here's Why You Should Be]

Firing someone impacts your entire company, not just the person getting fired.

Communicate future plans and goals

After the initial shock has worn off, communicate your goals, visions and plans for the company moving forward. Be sure employees are aware of the delegation of workload, who (if anyone) will be taking over the former employee’s responsibilities and what might change in their day-to-day work. If the termination of this employee warrants any major adjustments, such as letting go of a higher-level executive, let employees know the point person to contact and how this may alter the company’s dynamic.

Refresh everyone on rules and responsibilities

Depending on the reasons for termination (e.g., harassment or theft), it may be a good idea to have an informal refresher course on company policies with your employees. Remind them of the rules and violations that could result in termination.

It’s important everyone is aware of the ethical responsibilities they have to represent the company. Additionally, consider updating the company handbook, as it will give everyone the chance to voice any concerns or questions they have about policies.

Praise remaining employees

Showing appreciation for your current staff will boost morale after the termination of a team member. Be sure you are sincere about those doing great work within the organization and highlight why you are thanking the employees for their hard work. Even if it’s a simple “thank you” at the end of a meeting, be sure your remaining employees are feeling appreciated and recognized for their efforts.

[Read: Employee Retention: How to Keep Your Best Employees Happy]

Lighten the office environment

It can be difficult for team members to lose one of their own. Consider implementing team-building exercises or planning a company outing, such as a team breakfast. This can lighten the mood in the office and increase productivity that may have stalled during the employee’s termination.

While this time will be difficult for the fired employee, your team members and the company as a whole, good communication and an open-door policy will help things return to normal faster. Ultimately, handling the termination professionally, tactfully and transparently will strengthen your team and make for a smoother transition.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published February 10, 2020