Why to Have a Witness for Sales Terminations

By Butch Bellah

The decision to terminate a salesperson has been made and you’ve decided on the time. Now you need to secure a witness to sit in on the meeting with you. Some may think this is for personal protection, but it’s actually to cover your tail and make sure all your t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.

Your witness shouldn’t be someone from your own department if at all possible. It’s best if the witness is another member of management. Stress to your witness ahead of time that he’s there simply to observe and shouldn’t inject himself into the conversation even if the employee tries to engage him in it. His job is to simply witness the termination in the event his account is needed in the future.

Your witness should never participate in the conversation at all. He’s there to observe and observe only. You’re going to have a hard enough time controlling your own tongue without having to worry about someone else’s.

As well as you’ve planned for today, the employee hasn’t. His emotions are going to be raw. You need a witness to make sure things aren’t remembered differently by the two parties later — and they will be.

Additionally, having a witness provides backup for you and the employee that you secured all the company property upon his exit. You probably have a list of all company-owned assets you need to retrieve, but if not, here are few:

  • Laptop or computer: Get this immediately. Never give the employee access to it after you terminate him. You can have entire hard drives erased with customer lists and other information gone.

  • Cellphone: Another item to collect immediately. Don’t allow a fired employee to delete any numbers, texts, or emails. If he wants personal numbers removed, you can do that for him.

  • Sales materials/pricing: Make sure you collect all sales materials, pricing plans, proposal, customer lists, and so on. Anything that can be used by the salesperson if he were to go to work at a competitor should be left with you.

  • Company credit cards: Make sure you have fuel cards, credit cards, and any other cards before the employee leaves the premises.

  • Keys: Whether it’s keys to a company-issued vehicle or keys to the building, always collect them in front of the witness. Even the employee will want to ensure he isn’t held responsible for these after his departure.

  • Passwords and access codes: In today’s world, everything seems to be password or access-code protected. Make sure you’re able to get into the laptop, cellphone, and any other protected device before letting a fired employee leave the building. If terminated employees sign a statement saying they have returned all company property, include a paragraph stating that they gave you access to all company-related websites and so forth that are password protected.

After you cover the details of the termination, get all company property back, have the termination document signed by all — including the witness — and allow the former employee to add any statement he’d like to make to be part of the permanent record.

Your HR department should have a list of all company property assigned to the employee so you can simply go through the checklist. If it doesn’t, take some time now to create one. You’ll be glad you did when the time comes.

In addition to a witness, have someone standing by to drive the employee home in the event he has a company vehicle or takes public transportation to work. Don’t terminate someone and then have him sit at a bus stop. Again, as a matter of professionalism, take it upon yourself to provide your former employee with a way home.

The person driving a fired employee should be someone you trust, because he’s likely to get an earful from the now former employee, so he needs to be a 100 percent team player and not someone whose opinion and attitude are easily swayed.