Minimize the Sting of Separation – No Matter Why an Employee is Leaving

 iStockphoto.com | Chris Ryan

iStockphoto.com | Chris Ryan

In the United States, salaries are climbing and unemployment is at 3.7% – the lowest in 49 years. It shouldn’t be a secret to employers that job seekers have more leverage than they’ve had in years.

Employment branding – how a company portrays and differentiates itself as a great place to work – is more important than ever. This is the age of Glassdoor, where reviews of employers are abundant and readily available, and many firms invest a great deal of money in their employment image as they recruit talent.

Despite this investment, these employment branding efforts often diminish at the end of the employee lifecycle, as an employee is on his or her way toward exiting an organization. That’s a mistake. Managing employment branding at the point of separation (whether the employee is being laid off, leaving voluntarily or even being fired) is essential, regardless of the reason for separation. Employees are very sensitive (and perceptive) about how their exits are handled.

Former employees tend to talk freely about their impression of the company, and remember, everybody knows somebody. If an employee separation is handled with dignity and respect, the former employee is more likely to speak positively about their time at the company. Conversely, if the employee is unceremoniously pushed out the door, the net result could be bad feelings, accompanied by the spread of negative feedback online and across the broader talent market.

Here are some ways for employers to effectively manage employment branding at point of separation:

  • Demonstrate empathy and dignity. There are many valid reasons an employer might want to initiate a separation – whether layoff or firing – but it’s important to remember that, for the employee, losing a job is a painful and emotional experience.

  • Perform an exit interview. Asking a separating employee to talk about her or his experience at the company can provide valuable information about the environment, the culture, and the work itself. It might also yield valuable insights into what factors led to the employee’s separation. Build a standard set of open-ended questions, and have a skilled interviewer probe tactfully into the answers. The employee’s description of their work situation and performance may vary in substance or accuracy from the company’s, but it’s important to hear the employee out.

  • Consider offering outplacement services to ease the employee’s landing. Outplacement can include resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, job search coaching, and other tools designed to help the employee get back on his or her feet quickly. An outplacement package can increase soon-to-be-ex-employee satisfaction by demonstrating empathy and providing assistance. It can reduce employer risk by giving the separating employee something of value in exchange for releasing the company from any separation-related liability (always consult an attorney, a good lawyer will help you work through such a release). And, a separation package helps the individual focus forward on the next role, rather than backwards – and the faster he or she gets back to work, the less time will be spent thinking about being unemployed and trying to assign blame.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.