Terminating employees is always a difficult part of business. This difficulty increases in highly skilled areas such as software development. Developers are not oblivious
to the rigors of business. They recognize, to varying levels, that they are employed to do a job. Companies have many reasons why they choose to let individuals go.
Although this can be a popular debate, it unfortunately masks the deeper, more important conversation. Behind all the procedures, rules, and processes there is a person who will
be without a job. This is a common area where many managers and companies lose focus. Far too many programmers leave good companies with a bitter taste in their mouths
due to the termination process. The true caliber of a company is not how they treat their employees day-to-day; it's how they let them go.
A point of clarification:
This conversation excludes individuals terminated due to HR or other heinous violations.
Far too many developers have experienced immediate terminations, being fired at home, or received a termination notice delivered with a cold, unfeeling attitude. Each of these options have obvious negative reactions and outcomes. A programmer who has been trusted to develop vital software for a company does not wish to be treated like a criminal when being terminated. He/she expected a reciprocated level of respect. The world of programming is smaller than most realize. When hiring, it's important to acknowledge a temporary crossing of paths between a company and its employees. Although this time can vary, the days of the "one company worker" are fading fast. Additionally, bad terminations have a way of being viral conversations.
How can companies make this process more pleasant and respectable? The following is a list of concepts that will go far in mending fences during a rocky time:
- Provide an individual with ample notice of his/her termination. This can range anywhere from a few days to optimally a few weeks. A few extra days of budget can go a long way in a respectable termination.
- Provide an open door for continuous dialog about the termination. Maintain respectful objectivity in explanations and offer any/all support possible.
- As a sign of gratitude, provide a severance to the employee. This token of respect can help those in a time of need and elevates the individual above profits.
- Offer to write a letter of recommendation or be an employment reference. In this respectful gesture focus on the positive attributes the individual brought to the company.
- Provide paid time-off for an individual to go on interviews for job opportunities. This respectfully drives home the importance of the person over the underlying business decision.
One important note:
The previously mentioned "reciprocal" statement is the keystone for these options. If a developer cannot handle a respectful and graceful exit, there is no future obligation required and that individual should be terminated immediately
to avoid being a poison to a company.