What is a best practice when it comes to terminating employment via Zoom?
You’ve undoubtedly seen the headlines this past year of mass lay-offs and firings occurring remotely. From Better.com firing 900 workers in December 2021 to Klarna’s 700 job cuts, the articles didn’t paint a pretty picture of the practice nor the companies. But terminations are inevitable in any industry and many employees are still working remote, only reachable through email and video chats. So what are you supposed to do?
Firing someone can be difficult, made all the more complicated by the remote environment. That’s why we reached out to HR professionals and business owners, who provided 14 best practices to help you navigate this emotionally charged situation, remotely.
- Plan Ahead for Terminations
- Consider Local Laws to Ensure Compliance
- Stick to a Plan
- Eliminate Shock and Surprise
- Write a Professional Termination Letter
- Provide the Same Level of Respect as You Would In-Person
- Turn on Video for Both Parties
- Do It Quickly and Professionally
- Deliver the News Delicately
- Provide a Heads-up
- Handle the Situation With Dignity
- Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
- Invite Human Resources to Sit in
- Gain Consent to Record the Zoom Meeting
Plan Ahead for Terminations
It’s increasingly common for employers to communicate with employees remotely, including when it comes to terminating employment. While there are many advantages to using Zoom for this purpose, there are also some best practices to keep in mind to ensure the process goes smoothly. It’s essential to ensure the meeting is private, send a calendar invitation in advance, and avoid any technical problems when terminating employment via Zoom.
It’s also necessary to be clear and concise in your communication and to allow the employee to ask questions or share their reaction.
Overall, Zoom can be a great way to terminate employment if you keep these best practices in mind. By being prepared and taking the time to ensure the process goes smoothly, you can make this a positive experience for yourself and the employee.
Jacob Dayan, Community Tax
Consider Local Laws to Ensure Compliance
When terminating a remote employee, an important step is to check the local laws on termination, notice, and severance pay. Ideally, in your phone or video call, you should give the employee adequate notice of their termination, and if you’re parting ways on good terms, avail resources to help them prepare for the next steps in their job search; for example, you can recommend them to other suitable employers in your network.
Many states and countries have laws on severance pay at the time of termination. Ensure that you follow these regulations to avoid potentially costly legal implications. On your call, provide the employee with all the information on their benefits, final pay, termination date, and any other questions they may have. Convey the termination news with empathy and emotional integrity while being mindful of the impact the termination may have on the employee.
Joe Coletta, 180 Engineering
Stick to a Plan
This should come with careful preparation, outlining all of the points that need to be made. By following a list of what needs to be said, those conducting terminations over Zoom can stick to this plan so that the conversation does not get too off track and so that neither person on the call gets too caught up in emotions. This must be handled both delicately and efficiently.
Drew Sherman, RPM
Eliminate Shock and Surprise
Employees have the right to learn why they are being fired. A great practice is to ensure that the employee is not shocked when this occurs. If the employee was let go for a reason, such as tardiness or poor performance, there should have been multiple discussions and attempts to address the behavior or mistakes. The employee should be well informed that failure to do so would result in their dismissal. If there was a significant offense that resulted in quick dismissal without warning, the employee should also be aware of that policy.
Isaac Robertson, Total Shape
Write a Professional Termination Letter
A termination letter should be written professionally and clearly state the cause for termination. It should also include any information regarding severance pay, vacation time, and other benefits that may accrue before the termination. It’s best not to send this letter via email unless the employee agrees to receive them electronically. If the employer sends the letter via email, they should ensure that the recipient has agreed to receive emails from the company.
Anamika Goyal, Cottage
Provide the Same Level of Respect as You Would In-Person
When terminating employment via Zoom, remember that even though the mode of communication is casual and convenient, the actual conversation won’t be. One of the reasons why employers are hesitant to use Zoom as a medium for serious conversations is because it is an informal setting, in many ways.
Zoom is an app of convenience, used often for short, one-on-one check-ins between remote employees and their supervisors.
If you’re starting a Zoom meeting with the intent to terminate an employee, ensure that the meeting has no time-limit, so that no one feels rushed. Give the Zoom meeting the same level of respect and concentration that you might for an in-person discussion.
Sara Alshamsi, Big Heart Toys
Turn on Video for Both Parties
Terminating an employee is enough sad news, and one way to ensure that the meeting ends well, without any guesses, is by making sure that the video of both parties is switched on. That way, you and the employee can gauge each other’s facial expressions and show the necessary concern. This act may look small, but it’s a great way to prevent misunderstanding and unnecessary assumptions.
Simon Bacher, Simya Solutions
Do It Quickly and Professionally
Do it quickly and do it professionally. No one enjoys being fired, and typically as soon as an employee even hears the words they mentally check out and don’t really care about anything you’re saying. Obviously this isn’t always the case and for employees that have been with the company for a long time, it’s always better to err on the side of compassion.
Patrick Robinson, Paskho
Deliver the News Delicately
Most people know when they are going to get fired and Zoom doesn’t make that any different. The most important thing is to be cordial and professional. Explain the situation clearly, offer any resources and explain what happens next. The immediacy of getting fired virtually can naturally hit a bit closer to home, so at the end of the day it is imperative to have a delicate touch.
Michael Burghoffer, PicoSolutions
Provide a Heads-up
Terminating an employee is a heartbreaking affair and often things only get worse when the news comes as a shocker. Under these circumstances, a heads-up or some kind of warning sign that tells an employee what they can expect goes a long way in reducing the tension. After all, knowledge of what is to come does help cushion the blow to some extent. These could come by way of an email or news that reflects the company’s plans to downsize the workforce, or in case of singled-out terminations, the waving of a few red flags related to performance.
David Northup, InShapeMD
Handle the Situation With Dignity
The pandemic has led people and organizations to take harsh decisions. The foremost is to terminate an employee virtually. A lot of courage is needed to remove a person from a job over a zoom call. The first thing to keep in mind is their respect. They will hear a piece of heart-breaking news, so as the executive, you have to stay calm and hear them out.
Schedule a personal zoom meeting, give them a valid explanation for the decision and talk to them with admiration. No matter what happens, don’t argue with them. Keeping all the closure documents ready with you will ease the process.
The bold decision needs a lot of patience, but no extra explanation. As the person in charge of delivering the news, keep the meeting crisp and stay focused. Getting too involved will not solve the problem. Lastly, clear their salary dues beforehand to keep things moving at a fast pace.
Alexander Reid, TriviaWhizz
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
A best practice when it comes to terminating employment via Zoom is to ensure that you and your employee have the same understanding of what will happen next. If you’re planning on personally meeting with an employee who is quitting, or if they are planning on leaving immediately, it’s important to be explicit about how this will go down. You can do this by sitting down with them in advance and discussing any questions they might have about the process, and answering any questions they may have about their benefits or severance packages.
If you want to set up a meeting quickly, it’s best not to wait until the last minute. If you’re not sure when you’ll have time for a face-to-face meeting, consider setting up a video call at least several days before you need one so that both parties know what time frames should be expected.
Amer Hasovic, Love & Lavender
Invite Human Resources to Sit in
Best practice for conducting termination via Zoom is to try to have another person on the call with you. Most employees will have questions regarding severance pay or benefits so it’s best if the other person is an employee from human resources. If you can do the termination meeting in person, that would be the preferred method, but realize this is not the case for everyone. Try to end the zoom meeting on a positive note and schedule a time where the employee can bring back their software or computer to the office or mail back if long distance.
Lindsey Hight, Sporting Smiles
Gain Consent to Record the Zoom Meeting
When terminating employment via Zoom, a best practice is to get consent to record the meeting. In most states, recording is permitted with consent, and having a recording of the meeting can prove extremely beneficial should the employee choose to file a claim for wrongful termination in the future.
Nick Oberheiden, Oberheiden P.C.
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