Separation management as a vital part of company culture


Any dismissal can cause personal tragedy for those affected. Managers should always be aware of this. After all, an employee does not just lose "a job", but possibly his or her livelihood and in many cases also the opportunity for self-fulfilment. The process of separating from an employee is therefore just as important as the recruitment process and should first and foremost be fair and respectful.

Unfortunately, we also encounter the effects of a separation that has not yet been processed in personnel counselling. Often candidates are not even aware that they have not yet come to terms with a break-up (or termination). Only when it is reflected to them how it is received by the interviewer when they rant about the last or - even worse - the current employer, they realise that they are not making a good impression.

Similarly, we are often confronted with scorched earth in our clients' teams when we are commissioned. It is worth taking a critical look at this to give new employees a neutral start.


Not only on a personal level, but also from an economic point of view, a functioning separation management is important, because it not only brings the team back to higher performance, but also reduces subsequent lawsuits and expensive disputes in front of labour court. In addition, good separation management can have a positive impact on the image factor.

Before I go into the actual implementation of a separation meeting in Part 2 of this blog post, I would like to shed light on the organisational psychological background of a separation:

The most underestimated risk of bad separations by companies are the hidden costs. The leading expert in the field of corporate separation management, Laurenz Andrzejewski, has presented these very plausibly in the following diagram.

Illustration according to Laurenz Andrzejewski

So, one thing is clear: neither the economic factors nor the personal components should be disregarded for successful separation management. But how do you manage to ensure that both sides come out of the conversation in a positive frame of mind? The simple answer: It is almost impossible because it is always a shock!
A separation or termination interview is ALWAYS highly emotional and never 100% controllable.

The person giving notice should therefore definitely remember values such as compassion, appreciation and humanity and accept the emotional reactions of the (former) employee as they come. After all, they do not follow any logic and do not have the same time rhythm as a reaction on a factual level, which is mind-based.


  1. The Austrian organisational consultant Dr Roswita Königswieser has summarised the professional separation that people go through at different speeds (can vary from minutes to months) into five phases:
    The shock: This phase is often characterised by disorientation, strong agitation, or numbness. Physical symptoms such as pallor, sweating and trembling to the point of fainting occur here.
  2. hope for reversal: Denial, fear and insecurity prevail here and there is often a germination of hope for a mistake, a mix-up, or a chance to get another position in the company. Affected people often seem absent at this stage and shake their heads in a lost manner.
  3. aggression: In this phase, sufferers begin to fight back and there is a risk of revenge actions and even court cases. Colleagues who are better off can also be a provocation. A certain amount of aggression is important, however, in order to be able to process what has been experienced and to get rid of pent-up energy.
  4. Depression: Aggression is followed by a phase of inhibition, apathy, and self-accusation. Fears of the future and doubts about one's own qualifications often develop here.
  5. Mourning: In the last phase, those affected mourn the old reality and consequently reconcile themselves with the actual situation. Only when this step has been taken the person is able to deal with the actual consequences and accept the new reality.

In part 2 on the topic of separation management: "Farewell" instead of "goodbye", which we will publish in November, we will reveal how managers can prepare themselves for a separation interview and which aspects can be helpful.

In addition, we offer a valuable service with the consultations by HILL Management.

Sylvia Steinkellner, MSc, Guest Author
Guest Author

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