How to Conduct a Dismissal Interview - Sample Warning Letter / Departure Forms

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How to Conduct a Dismissal Interview - Sample Warning Letter / Departure Forms

Individual dismissals occur when an employee does not meet his/her job's requirements and thus cannot fulfill his/her mission within the organization anymore; it may also occur during the probationary periodIn a​ny case, the aim of the dismissal interview will be to inform the employee of the company's decision to terminate the employment relationship of the reasons that have lead to this choice. It may take place under three distinct circumstances:

1) The employee's skills do not meet the position's requirements is observed. This may be due diverse causes:

  • A lack of competencies or insufficient results: The employee is not able to meet his/her position’s requirements anymore (time management, customer management, technical follow-up…)
  • An inappropriate behavior (language, clothing, recurrent absences…)
  • A difficulty to adjust to new processes (reengineering of business processes, change in production tools…)

2) A layoff/downsizing process is implemented: delocalization, financial difficulties, "rationalization" of production processes (such as regularly observed in the banking industry, for example)…

3) The employment relationship is terminated for cause: In Swiss Law, a just cause for the termination of employment is defined as "any circumstances under which the rules of good faith do not allow to demand that the party who terminated the employment contract continue the employment relationship" (Art. 337 Swiss Obligation Code, unofficial translation). In most cases, it refers to a transgression of the terms of the employment contract or a violation of the law itself.

Please note that, whenever the dismissal is not motivated by a just cause or by economic reasons, respect for the human person dictates that written warnings should be sent before taking action. Such warning letters should always be followed by an assessment interview (guidelines), so that improvement goals may be set (with a deadline!). The dismissal itself should only occur after 3 warnings. All too often, people indeed are dismissed without even knowing that their employer is not satisfied with their work anymore!


An assessment interview (guidelines) can thus provide the ideal framework in order to try and avoid the dismissal, by clarifying the causes of the dissatisfaction and setting improvement goals. If those are not reached within the set deadlines, it will be necessary to schedule a second interview while sending a letter of warning to inform the employee that it will be his/her last chance to meet the company's requirements. Moreover, the following documents may prove useful during the interview itself:


During a dismissal interview, employees are dealt an emotional blow. They may thus not able to listen and this is why they should be offered to have another meeting in the next days, if they wish to (however, it is very important not to make promises that one will not be able to fulfill!). Moreover, depending on the situation, you may need to resort to:

  1. A healthcare professional (work medicine specialist, psychologist…), if you consider that the person presents signs of emotional frailty
  2. A security professional, if you consider that there is a risk of violent behavior (e.g. after verbal threats)
  3. A technical expert (accounting, IT specialist…) depending on the nature of the transgression (violation of professional secrecy, fraud…)

The person who is in charge of conducting the interview should be clearly identified (is it be the HR Manager or the employee’s direct superior?). The causes for the termination of the contract should be clearly and patiently exposed. Moreover, it will prove useful to refer to any objective tool available, such as: past warning letters, performance appraisals, corporate policies, labor law, etc.

Once the decision to end the employment contract has been communicated, it is important to give the person some time to freely express his/her thoughts. Any aggressive behavior should be quickly responded to by reminding the person that he/she sould respect you, just as you respect him/her.

In case of emotional outbreaks, such as weeping, it is only natural to offer the adequate empathy, without however departing oneself from a certain professional distance - i.e. of proper emotional boundaries. Those involved in the dismissal procedure should not take such emotional outbreaks personally, in so far as they have previously given ther person a chance to avoid the separation. However value judgments should clearly be banned from the conversation.

In the course of a dismissal process, it is only normal for employees to lose their motivation. We thus regard it as judicious to immediately give leave to dismissed employees, so that their loss of motivation will not negatively impact their colleagues. Reactions of solidarity, though perfectly understandable, are indeed totally unwished for in this case.

Please note that, if you wish to grant the person immediate leave, no compensation may be made with remaining vacation days, unpaid overtime work, etc.


Here is a sample letter of warning in which the person is informed that he/she is given a last chance to change a certain inadequate behavior. You may also use a preparation sheet for the dismissal interview (sample) and the following questionnaire for the assessment of behavior skills (sample) for the conduct of the interview itself.


When the termination of the employment contract is not due to a gap between the employee’s skills and the position’s requirements, a specific treatment applies:

1. Termination for cause:

  • a folder with precise, chronological facts must be set up
  • the right to the payment of a salary is extinguished on the day of the dismissal

2. Collective dismissal on economic grounds:

  • such decisions must be communicated as soon as possible
  • it is absolutely necessary to communicate the number of employees who will be affected by this measure and to quickly conduct the dismissal procedures
  • it is necessary to be aware that, when such action is taken, the work climate deteriorates and criticisms are running high
  • such decisions is made by Board members; absolute confidentiality is mandatory


Whenever collective dismissals for economic reasons are conducted, Swiss Law stipulates that employees who find a job before the termination of their current contract must be given leave in advance, should their new employer ask for it (Swiss Code of Obligations, Art. 335 d,e,f).


Whatever the cause of the termination, it appears essential to us that dismissed employees be offered some support, for example by:

  • Providing employees with assistance for the writing of their CV (provide them with several copies if it is not digital)
  • Providing employees with assistance for the writing of their statement of interests (provide them with several copies if it is not digital)
  • Issuing the employment certificate as quickly as possible (be careful to provide them with several copies)
  • Forwarding them relevant newly issued job advertisements

Helping the new job seekers to prepare a high-quality application file will already represent a considerable economy of time and energy, and significantly increase their chances of success. Of course, this support may only be offered to departing employees who decide to accept it. The use of outplacement companies can also prove a great help.


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