Not all farewells are amicable. Those that are, go smoothly with heartfelt comments and warm best wishes. The separations that are more acrimonious risk being bitter, awkward affairs.
As a leader, your minimum position should be to say goodbye with dignity on both sides.
What does dignity mean in this context where the departure is not on the best terms? It means respect.
Allowing the person leaving the organisation to do so without embarrassment, with their head held high and with the genuine belief that those in the organisation wish them well for the future, regardless of the fact it has not worked out in the current role.
This positive framing of the departure can be difficult and appear disingenuous.
It can be argued that it is false to wish them well when the person is being forced to leave, or at best, has resigned because of some disagreement inside the organisation.
However, it is important to separate the event or behaviour that precipitated the departure from the person themselves.
Just because they haven’t worked out in this organisation doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t work elsewhere.
The farewell speech can legitimately be a combination of a thank you for their efforts on your organisation’s behalf and a hope that they find fulfilment and rewards in the new role.
The biggest test of these difficult departures comes if the person departing chooses to be very negative, disparaging or vengeful with their comments.
Holding your line on treating the person with respect, regardless of what they say, will endear you to those who remain in the organisation.
They will see it has been a difficult time for you and, despite the temptation to tear strips off the departing employee, you have maintained your dignity and an underlying respect for the other person.
One more small step in the next 24 hours
In the stress of saying farewell to an underperforming employee, the temptation is to get it done quickly and painlessly. However, your behaviour at this time will be magnified many times over, so time and preparation are essential.
If you do have the need to give a farewell presentation, take time to consider how you frame the message to acknowledge the strengths of the person and express a genuine hope that their next role will work out well.
At all times, consider how this message will be received by the person leaving and how it will be heard by those who remain.