Tactics for Terminating a Remote Employee

mitchell_remote employee termination July 25, 2022 By: Barbara Mitchell

Terminating any employee is challenging, but letting go of a remote staffer comes with a unique set of challenges. Some best practices for navigating this process virtually.

Q: Since some of our staff began working remotely, we’ve been lucky and not had to deal with a difficult performance issue. However, we want to be prepared. Can you help us plan for how to handle performance and other discipline issues, including how to do a termination remotely?

A: Managing performance is all about setting clear expectations and then holding the employee accountable for meeting them—no matter where we are all working from. 

When a remote employee is having a performance issue, set a time to meet on Zoom or whatever platform your organization uses. Begin by clearly laying out the issue. Start with expectations and show where the employee’s performance is lacking.  If you are issuing a verbal warning, confirm it in writing via email so that both you and the employee know exactly what is expected of the employee going forward.

However, if the employee’s performance doesn’t improve, then termination may be necessary.

If meeting in person is not possible, schedule a virtual meeting and have someone from HR or another manager with you online. As with any conversation around performance, get right to the point. Don’t recite a list of where expectations fell short—instead, tell them one or two big gaps in their performance and that the decision is final. 

As with any conversation around performance, get right to the point.

Ask the HR representative to summarize the details of what the employee will receive (e.g., severance, benefits) and when their response is due. 

Before the meeting, think through how you will get any organization-owned materials or equipment back from the employee. This may mean allowing them to ship back equipment at the organization’s expense or having them to bring items back to the office at a specific time. Also work with your IT staff to have their access to your systems cut off while you are in your virtual termination meeting.

The process isn’t really that different when virtual—it just takes a few additional steps.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, and the newest, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to achq@asaecenter.org.