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Letting Someone Go Gracefully

"I'm a manager and I need to let someone go. How can I do so gracefully, and what’s my backup plan if they react negatively?" 

Lori Spangler, ACS Career Consultant
Lori Spangler, ACS Career Consultant

Many of us have been laid off during our careers, or will be at some point.  It is an extremely stressful event. As a manager, I recommend preparing carefully for the meeting, being sure to have all the facts for the employee being terminated, and communicating with honesty and compassion. 

There are a number of scenarios for employee termination. One scenario is when employees have to be let go because of a change in company objectives or finances, for example, the financial impact of a global virus on the company’s business. Partner with Human Resources and Security to prepare for the employee termination. Human Resources can help you prepare for the difficult and often emotional conversation, and ensure you comply with all applicable employment laws and any union rules. 

Work with HR to provide the employee with a written package of information, including severance benefits (when applicable), and how to access health insurance and employee assistance programs. Make sure Security is available to collect company property and to stand by if necessary. Many Security and HR teams will encourage you to ask the person to leave the worksite immediately to avoid any potential for workplace disruption, while also maintaining discretion and respect for the employee. 

If the employee is being let go because of poor performance, the employee should already be aware that you have concerns about their performance. Performance issues should never be a surprise to members of your team. As a manager, you will have been providing feedback and coaching or additional training to help to bring their performance up to an acceptable level. 

In a large or medium-sized company, there may be formalized employee improvement plans which can be utilized to help get an employee’s performance on track. All plans and commitments to improve the employee’s performance must be documented by the manager. Assuming the employee has been told about the poor performance and has failed to improve despite coaching and training, then it may be time to let the employee go, following the steps described above. 

You may want to offer the former employee help in managing the layoff and in seeking a new job. Your company may contract with an outplacement agency and/or, consider a referral to the ACS Career Consultants, who can help with resume writing, mock interviewing, video interviewing tips, job searching strategies and networking plans. 

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

ACS Career Consultants are experts and leaders working in the field of chemistry who have volunteered to support other ACS members’ career development through one-on-one career counselling. They can stimulate your thinking, ask important career planning questions to help clarify goals, provide encouragement, teach strategies for making meaningful career decisions, and aid you in your job search. Connect with an ACS Career Consultant today!

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