A client of ours had decided to terminate the employment of one their greenkeepers last week, but very nearly bungled the whole thing at the 11th hour.
The greenkeeper in question had been there less than two years, had performed poorly for a long time, and had been called in for numerous performance meetings, and had continually failed to improve.
Open goal, right?
They spoke to us, and we explained exactly what they need to do: explain that they were letting him go, have a witness present just in case (they chose the Chair of Greens) and pay him a month’s notice. Job done.
It all went well at first.
The writing had been on the wall, so the staff member wasn’t exactly surprised, and there was zero pushback, so that part was all pretty swift and – thankfully – amicable.
They stood up to end the meeting, with the general manager thanking him for his service and wishing him all the best.
And then the witness piped up.
“And of course, you appreciate that we need to offer this position to a younger person who is at the start of their career and will stay with us for a long time to come!”
No. No. No.
And by the way, the greenkeeper was 60 years old, and yes, age is a protected characteristic.
The general manager rang us just after the meeting, unsurprisingly in complete panic.
Luckily, we were able to get a meeting with the dismissed greenkeeper the next day and explain that:
- The committee member had been “confused”, of course, he wasn’t being dismissed due to his age
- Oh, and by the way, thanks for your service and have an extra month’s money.
The greenkeeper was happy and went quietly, the Club was relieved that it hadn’t escalated to a tribunal claim and the Chair of Greens? Well, unsurprisingly they are now banned from termination meetings forever.
Having a witness is smart, but if you are having someone in the room with you, they need to know that there are very few things that are acceptable to say to someone who is leaving, and when you’ve just agreed on the termination, and everything’s going swimmingly, that is probably not the time to be “honest”!