Handling it when someone resigns is one thing...

But when we let someone go in the company it's difficult for me as the IT manager to engage this individual over the phone or via email.

The need is there to converse with them and make sure we retrieve any company physical property (laptops, cell phones, printers, networking equipment) as well as intellectual property (files, email, physical printouts/diagrams, etc.).

I try to remain "clinical" about the situation as someone that isn't directly involved.

The issue is that I'm not sure what the proper medium is to engage the individual. Do I stick with email only (for tracking of what is said) or is a phone call in order? I don't discuss with them what/why it is happening, but I still need to be able to make sure we get all of the equipment back properly, especially the IP stuff.

Often the calls go just fine, but sometimes the person might get defensive about "their equipment" and be reluctant to simply hand stuff back over.

What kinds of phrases or mannerisms or protocols are appropriate when dealing with this from my perspective? I don't want to sound cold and uninterested in what is transpiring but I also don't want to say something that would cause an HR issue. Is it best to always copy their boss or HR in emails or involve their boss or HR on the call to make sure there isn't a "he said she said" thing?

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    Okay, you have inventory tracking, right? The ones doing the deed should have a printout of what the employee has and collect it upon termination. This is great for the company and the employee as the employee can get a receipt of return. Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:51
  • @Raystafarian - yes, it gets gray in regards to IP though, since it's difficult to know what the employee does or doesn't have on a BYOD laptop or phone that isn't company owned. But I get your point and is a smart thing to include.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:54
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    If you have BYOD, I'm sure you have a policy surrounding that as well that can be leveraged. There's no way to ensure that someone gives up all intangibles, but if that was a legitimate concern, why would that person have been hired in the first place? Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:57
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    For them to call it "their equipment" is stealing.
    – user8365
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 18:36
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    @HLGEM - BYOD, personal cell phones syncing email, VPN from home, someone bringing their favorite pen from home to write with, etc. etc. etc.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 13:34

2 Answers 2


Nothing confines you to a single medium. You can start with a phone call, since unlike an email you know you've reached the person, and you can take some notes during the call. Then you immediately send a confirming email, listing what equipment they have and what's going to happen to it. You can track what you get back against that email, and if there are things the user needs to do, such as removing software from their own devices, that you can't track, your email can include a request for them to let you know when they've done it.

This also lets you handle the tone thing well - the email can be cold and clinical, a simple list of items and steps and such, because your initial verbal interaction with them can have been a little warmer and supportive. Verbally you can say "I'm sorry to hear you'll be leaving us; it's my duty to take care of this equipment handover; I don't want to intrude at a difficult time; let's just clean this up quickly so you can deal with more important things right now" and other supportive or emotional statements that might not feel right in an email. The departing employee is unlikely to be offended by a "just the facts" email after a helpful phone conversation; they know it's just a summary.

As for cc-ing, I wouldn't start with ccs unless it's already company policy to do so (in which case you wouldn't be asking.) If you need to ask again 3 days later "I still do not have the phone" then sure, cc the boss of the departing person, or HR, or someone else who might either pressure them to hand it over or explain to you why some exception has been granted in this case.

Finally don't stay on email once you've switched there - if someone is resisting then not only calling them but going and visiting them can be very useful to either get them to comply or to show to your bosses that you did everything you could.

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    I like most of what you said, however I disagree with visiting a fired employee who is resisting contact. In that situation it's likely better to forward the issue up to HR or the legal department.
    – NotMe
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 17:21
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    companies vary, but swinging by the departing guy's desk to "pick up that phone" may be a helpful thing to do that saves the person walking over to you to deliver it. Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 18:37
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    Ah, I was assuming the person had already been escorted off site and the OP was contacting them later. In that case, I'd argue that you should have the desk pretty much cleaned up while they are away from that area. When term'ing an employee we typically have all of their stuff boxed up, final check cut and network credentials revoked while they are away. We will escort them to a conference room when they get in. The conversation usually lasts about 60 seconds then they are walked out. If in the middle of the day, someone clears out their desk while they are having the term conversation.
    – NotMe
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 18:42
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    Terminations vary but if it's up to the departing person to hand over things, I suspect they're having a slower-paced one than you describe here. I've only seen the "here's a box, we cleaned out your office for you" once - not pretty. Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 19:06
  • @KateGregory As someone's who had that happen to them, it's definitely a very cold way to terminate someone.
    – Nathan C
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 13:19

This is the type of information that's usually outlined in the severance agreement or employment contract. You also may have severance payment to use as leverage for cooperation.

Telephone and email are fine for this communication, though. If there's an HR department, copy them on the correspondence to keep record of this. I've also had HR on the phone (conference) for these discussions. (believe me, I've been on both sides of this)

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    On your first sentence, I'm not really asking what the employee is required to give back...more along the lines of how to make sure I approach them professionally yet courteously while still making sure I don't get a call from HR like "Why did you tell them they could keep their laptop?" and me having to say "I never said that...they misunderstood" etc.
    – TheCleaner
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:49
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    @TheCleaner: An HR department with any level of experience has seen former employees say all sorts of things. Some true, some not. They aren't likely to put much value on the word of someone that was let go. If the former employee said such a thing, an experienced HR person would ask them for documentation to that effect while letting them know that they "don't really want to get legal involved." The only documentation they should accept is a letter, signed by someone with the appropriate authority, giving them the laptop. Even then there are tax consequences.
    – NotMe
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 18:34

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