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How to say goodbye to an employee?

Karina Chowaniak
The decision to discharge an employee is not easy and surely causes stress for either party. When is such decision taken and why?

MP: Employers are very conscious and careful about employee discharges. Such decisions are analysed mainly from the business point of view and take many weeks to arrive at. The most common causes include mergers of two companies, outsourcing and the lack of adequate abilities. In the first case, the employer has to choose between two employees holding equivalent positions and determine which of the two is best suited for the market challenges and business aims of the company. The second situation is most common in accounting, administration, HR and IT departments.

What is the biggest challenge?
                                                                                                                      
MP: In this case, communication is key - both with the employee concerned and with the whole company. It is important that the communication should be precise, clear and backed up with appropriate arguments. Surely, there will be emotions, which are an intrinsic part of employment termination. Employees react to such situations very differently. As a coordinator and a psychologist, I have witnessed a whole spectrum of emotions that employees experience, from their satisfaction with the decision of the employer to severe stress and emotions caused by the change that is about to happen. When the employer feels that the situation is likely to be weighed down with negative emotions, it is the moment to provide the employee with support and offer comfort and safety. This is why more and more companies choose outplacement.

 What is outplacement?

MP: Basically, outplacement is the process of helping the departing employee to find new employment. Usually, companies turn to personnel consultancy for assistance. This way, all employees covered by an outplacement program stay informed about current job opportunities in the sector that interests them the most. The whole process of looking for a new job is coordinated by a recruiter. The employees themselves stress the value of being represented and having employment conditions negotiated on their behalf. They appreciate the possibility to learn to think constructively and also how to announce the loss of their job and the change of jobs.

A discharge is a particularly difficult situation for employees. What kind of support can they count on?

MP: First of all, we examine the expectations of the employee and learn what is their point of view on the situation. It is the key element of the whole process. Sometimes, the program involves people who have worked in a given company most of their lives and for whom entering the job market is a serious challenge. In such cases, preparing a professional CV and conducting a sample job interview are a priority. The greatest difficulty consists in teaching the employee to speak about these experiences in an interesting way and helping them understand that it is a value that they may put forward. It is not so problematic for people with a shorter tenure, but for people with a long career in the same company it is a major hurdle.

What psychological barriers an employee has to overcome during an outplacement process?

MP: Both theory and practice show that a discharge brings about a loss of confidence in one’s competences. The financial security granted by the employer has also a considerable impact on the situation. Its level influences the quality of cooperation - the lesser it is, the stronger the employee’s emotions become and the more likely they are to hinder the whole process. The second person helping to boost one’s feelings of professional self-worth is the recruiter. Their job is to determine the best characteristics and skills of the employee and show them how to communicate these to their future employer.

How does the recommendation process look like?

MP: The first stage involves a preparation process. We have to make sure the employee is at ease with their new CV and that they are well prepared for the job interview. This is why we provide outplacement services in one of the Antal offices and not in the former employer’s office. This helps the employee to get used to new circumstances more quickly, because sometimes even visiting other companies or meeting new people can become stressogenic factors. In such a way, they will be able to concentrate on presenting themselves appropriately during a real interview.

There are cases of employees still remaining unemployed. What happens in such a case?

MP: We do not always receive meeting invitations for recommended candidates from potential employers. In such cases, we have to consider a change of approach or of the area of interest together with the candidate. It usually happens when the employee has a niche experience, does not want to relocate or lacks confidence in his own competences. Our task is to convince them to complement their professional experience by obtaining the necessary certifications and licenses confirming qualifications or by improving their language skills. I recall a candidate we worked with a few years ago who had very specific work experience and did not want to relocate because of her two teenage sons. We had worked with her for 8 months until we found a perfect match - a company that appreciated the candidate’s unique experience.

Why is it worthwhile to use outplacement services?

Outplacement is a process targeted not only at the employee, but also at the employer. It is good to remember that the employee leaving the company is still its ambassador and the way they say goodbye can have a far-reaching impact upon the reputation of both.

Thank you for the interview.