Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

This article is in need of attention from a psychologist/academic expert on the subject.
Please help recruit one, or improve this page yourself if you are qualified.
This banner appears on articles that are weak and whose contents should be approached with academic caution.

Personnel termination is the process in personnel management surrounding the ending of an employees employment. This may be due to factors such as retirement, occupational health problems, disciplinary dismissal etc

Types of termination

Voluntary Termination

An employee may quit his/her job for many reasons. These reasons include

Some employees may also quit their job if they feel that they are going to be fired soon and would rather leave on their own terms or simply avoid the stigma of being fired. It gives them the feeling of being in control of their lives even if they're not.

Termination by mutual agreement

Some terminations occur as a result of mutual agreement between the employer and employee. When this happens, it is sometimes debatable if the termination was truly mutual. In many of these cases, it was originally the employer's wish for the employee to depart, but the employer offered the mutual termination agreement in order to soften the firing (as in a forced resignation). But there are also times when a termination date is agreed upon before the employment starts (as in an employment contract).

Some types of termination by mutual agreement include:

  • The end of an employment contract for a specified period of time (such as an internship)
  • Mandatory retirement. Some occupations, such as commercial airline pilots, face mandatory retirement at a certain age.
  • Forced resignation

Involuntary termination

Involuntary termination is the employee's departure at the hands of the employer.

In the workplace, an employee may be fired for many reasons:
  • Work performance that fails to meet a given standard, especially over a period of time.
  • Chronic absence.
  • Constant or gross insubordination, or other inability to properly relate (i.e., get along) with co-workers and/or customers.
  • Inappropriate conduct or misconduct.
  • Engaging in illegal activities on the job (such as embezzlement).
  • Any other failing as deemed appropriate by a workplace manager or supervisor.

There are two basic types of involuntary termination, known often as being "fired" and "laid off."

To be fired, as opposed to being laid off, is generally thought of to be the employee's fault, and therefore is considered in most cases to be dishonorable and a sign of failure. Often, it may hinder the new jobseeker's chances of finding new employment, particularly if he/she has been fired from earlier jobs. Jobseekers sometimes do not mention jobs which they were fired from on their résumés; accordingly, unexplained gaps in employment, and refusal to contact previous employers are often regarded as "red flags".[1] Being successively fired from several jobs has the possibility of preventing jobseekers from obtaining gainful employment for a long time.[2]

In some cases, an employee's off-the-job behavior could result in his losing his/her job (e.g., a drunk driving arrest, especially if the employee's principal responsibilities require driving). At some businesses, a security officer may escort a "fired" employee from the workplace to the parking lot upon his/her dismissal.


Main article: Dismissal (employment)

Dismissal is where the employer chooses to require the employee to leave, generally for a reason which is the fault of the employee. The most common colloquial term for dismissal in America is "getting fired" whereas in Britain the term "getting the sack" is used.


Main article: Downsizing

A less severe form of involuntary termination is often referred to as a layoff (also redundancy or being made redundant in British English). A layoff is usually not strictly related to personal performance, but instead due to downsizing in response to economic cycles or the company's need to restructure itself, the firm itself going out of business or a change in the function of the employer (for example, a certain type of product or service is no longer offered by the company and therefore jobs related to that product or service are no longer needed). One type of layoff is the aggressive layoff; in such a situation, the employee is laid off, but not replaced as the job is eliminated.

In a postmodern risk economy, such as that of the United States, a large proportion of workers may be laid off at some time in their life, and often for reasons unrelated to performance or ethics. However, employment termination can also result from a probational period, in which both the employee and the employer reach an agreement that the employer is allowed to lay off the employee if the probational period is not satisfied.

Often, layoffs occur as a result of "downsizing", "reduction in force" or "redundancy". These are not technically classified as firings; laid-off employees' positions are terminated and not refilled, because either the company wishes to reduce its size or operations or otherwise lacks the economic stability to retain the position. In some cases, a laid-off employee may eventually be offered their old position again by his/her respective company, though by this time he or she may have found a new job.

Some companies resort to attrition (voluntary redundancy in British English) as a means to reduce their workforce.[3] Under such a plan, no employees are forced to leave their jobs. However, those who do depart voluntarily are not replaced. Additionally, employees are given the option to resign in exchange for a fixed amount of money, frequently a few years of their salary. Such plans have been carried out by the United States Federal Government under President Bill Clinton during the 1990s,[4] and by the Ford Motor Company in 2005.[5]

However, "layoff" may be specifically addressed and defined differently in the articles of a contract in the case of unionised work.

Summary termination

In cases of extreme gross misconduct, an employer may pursue summary dismissal or instant dismissal, where an employee is dismissed on the spot. Under UK law, employers are not required to give notice for such terminations, so long as there is just cause.

Termination with Prejudice

An employee may be terminated with prejudice, meaning an employer will not rehire the former employee to a similar job in the future. This can be for many reasons: incompetence, misconduct (such as dishonesty or "zero tolerance" violations), insubordination or "attitude" (personality clashes with peers or bosses).

Conversely, a person can be terminated without prejudice, meaning the fired employee may be rehired readily for a similar job in the future. This is usually true in the case of layoff.

Termination forms ("pink slips") routinely include a set of check boxes where a supervisor can indicate "with prejudice" or "without prejudice."

A related term is allegedly used at the CIA: termination with extreme prejudice , which is a euphemism for assassination. (It may be more common in fiction than in real life, given that such an extreme measure is rarely used). It is metaphorical, but it is accurate: a dead person is incapable of any employment, so the prejudice is truly extreme. (The acronym TWEP is sometimes used, even as a verb: "He knew too much about the operation, so he was TWEPped."

Discriminatory and retaliatory termination

In some cases, the firing of an employee is a discriminatory act. Although an employer may often claim the dismissal was for "just cause," these discriminatory acts are often because of the employee's physical or mental disability, or perhaps his/her age, race, gender, HIV status or sexual orientation. Other unjust firings may result from a workplace manager or supervisor wanting to retaliate against an employee. Often, this is because the worker reported wrongdoing (often, but not always sexual harassment or other misconduct) on the part of the supervisor. Such terminations are usually illegal. Many successful lawsuits have resulted from discriminatory or retaliatory termination.

Discriminatory or retaliatory termination by a supervisor can take the form of administrative process. In this form the rules of the instituton are used as the basis for termination. For example, if a place of employment has a rule that prohibits personal phone calls, receiving or making personal calls can be the grounds for termination even though it may be a common practice within the organization.

Forced resignations

In addition to the risks and costs of firing an employee, firing a high-profile individual such as a school superintendent, an executive, or a public official often leads to rumor and factionalism; people who sympathized with the fired employee will be drawn against the person responsible for one's termination.

To avoid this, and to allow the dismissed employee to "save face" in a more "graceful" exit, the employer will often ask the employee to resign "voluntarily" from his or her position. If the employee chooses not to resign, the processes necessary to fire him or her will be pursued, and the employee will usually be fired. The resignation thus makes it unclear whether the resignation was forced or voluntary, and this opaqueness may benefit both parties: for instance, the "fired" employee is more easily able to seek new employment in his/her given field. There are times when the President of the United States will ask his entire Cabinet to submit their resignations. He can accept some of them and file the rest away. This is often done by a new President who has inherited his predecessol's Cabinet, as a way to reorganize with reduced hard feelings.

High-profile individuals, when forced to resign from a job, will often claim that they resigned over "creative differences" or "to spend more time with their family". However, even these reasons can create rumors, especially when they are obviously false.

Changes of conditions

Firms that wish for an employee to exit of his or her own accord, but do not wish to pursue firing or forced resignation, may degrade the employee's working conditions, hoping that he or she will leave "voluntarily". The employee may be moved to a different geographical location, assigned to an undesirable shift, given too few hours if part time, demoted (or relegated to a menial task), or assigned to work in uncomfortable conditions. Other forms of manipulation may be used, such as being unfairly hostile to the employee, and punishing him or her for things that are deliberately overlooked with other employees.

Such tactics may amount to constructive dismissal, which is illegal in some jurisdictions.

Managing termination of employment from a psychological perspective

Effects of termination

Rarely is a decision to fire an employee arrived at lightly, or is it as dramatic as portrayed on television (such as with the WWE, when Vince McMahon "fires" an employee as part of a storyline) or in the movies.

Depending on the jurisdiction, a supervisor and/or workplace manager must keep extensive documentation of employees — including records of disciplinary action, evaluations, attendance records, and correspondence from supervisors, co-workers and customers. Often, these items can be used in determining whether to terminate an employee considered for such an action. In some cases, certain disciplinary records, evaluations and relevant information must be expunged from the employee's file after a specified time period.

Often, an involuntary termination is part of a "progressive step" process, meaning the employee will have been warned for his/her work performance and/or conduct and given an opportunity to improve before more severe measures are taken. However, immediate termination may be enacted for severe cases, such as fighting, on-the-job sexual harassment or other zero tolerance offenses. Often, workplace managers require giving an employee due process, giving the worker a chance to show why he/she should be allowed to keep his/her job; they may also be required to give a terminated employee the option to appeal his/her firing.

In addition to the risks and resulting consequences involved with involuntary terminations, there is the matter of unemployment benefits. In the United States, these benefits are financed by companies; a firm's unemployment costs increase with each worker laid off or fired. Therefore, more common are de facto firings, which are classified as "voluntary" termination.

To be fired (or any of its synonyms), as opposed to being laid off, is generally thought to be dishonorable and a sign of failure. In some cases, it may hinder the now job-seeker's chances of finding new employment, particularly if he/she has been fired several times. Job seekers will often not mention jobs they were fired from on their resumes. However, in today's society, getting fired is also highly common. Most Americans will be fired at some time in their life[How to reference and link to summary or text], and not always because of any moral failing or lack of a work ethic but simply due to office politics.

Health consequences of employment termination

Rehire following termination

Depending on the circumstances, one whose employment has been terminated may or may not be able to be rehired by the same employer.

If the decision to terminate was the employee's, the willingness of the employer to rehire is often contingent upon the relationship the employee had with the employer, the amount of notice given by the employee prior to departure, and the needs of the employer. In some cases, when an employee departed on good terms, s/he may be given special priority by the employer when seeking rehire.

An employee who was fired by an employer may in some cases be eligible for rehire by that same employer, although in some cases it is usually related to staffing issues.

An employee may be terminated without prejudice, meaning the fired employee may be rehired readily for the same or a similar job in the future. This is usually true in the case of layoff.

Conversely, a person can be terminated with prejudice, meaning an employer will not rehire the former employee to a similar job in the future. This can be for many reasons: incompetence, misconduct (such as dishonesty or "zero tolerance" violations), insubordination or "attitude" (personality clashes with peers or bosses).

Termination forms ("pink slips") routinely include a set of check boxes where a supervisor can indicate "with prejudice" or "without prejudice".

See also

External links