This is part 2 of a 2 part series. For Part I, read “Outlining Expectations”.
Part one of this article outlined some points to remember when discussing RA expectations. Part two of this article will talk more specifically about how to actually facilitate a termination meeting with an RA.
WHEN A SITUATION FINALLY OCCURS
1. Move quickly, fact find fast
2. Make it a priority in your day
3. Keep the RA up-to-date on the situation
4. Choose a “neutral” location for the meeting (around a conference room table has worked well for us).
5. Get necessary “clearances” from Deans, etc.
THE MEETING WITH THE RA
1. Certain people have to be in the meeting, but make sure that the most articulate, compassionate, unyielding member of the office delivers the message of resignation/termination.
2. Exchange greetings, but then give the RA the opportunity to speak first and say why we are gathered.
3. Use the information provided in the RA explanation and other facts to discuss where the problem lies.
4. Ask the RA to identify this problem if able…
5. Make reference to the Ethical Expectations document, the pledge, and the trust built during the year as a staff
6. Share with them at this point that they cannot continue as a staff member
7. Give them the opportunity to resign
8. If they are upset, give them time to cry, vent, etc. before you end the meeting
9. Emphasize that they made a mistake, but that they are not a bad person
10. Share with them that this can be a learning opportunity – how they can turn this into a positive experience (getting involved with some other activities on campus, etc.)
11. Reinforce that college is the time to make mistakes
12. Help them with the next steps – Give them clear timelines w/ regard to:
◦When they need to turn in their resignation letter (give them advice on how to write such a letter if they need help).
◦ When they need to vacate their room.
◦ When they can pick up a key to their new room (we are flexible with this based on academic commitments).
◦ Schedule a hall meeting to discuss the situation (coordinate with the RA).
◦ Schedule a meeting so the RA can talk to their staff.
◦ Share with them when their room credit, other benefits will stop, and when they can expect a bill.
◦ After the situations “seems” to be closed, remember to re-establish a relationship with the staff member (a telephone call, lunch, coffee, etc.).
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN TALKING TO YOUR RA STAFF
1. Remember legal restraints when dealing with personnel issues. (This is one of the reasons that we allow the RA to come talk to their staff – they can clarify, answer questions, etc.)
2. It is important to share information with the larger RA staff – encourage them to ask questions of the RA involved (if the RA is okay with that). Remind them that it is NOT helpful for them to perpetuate rumors.
3. Don’t play games (e.g. – “I can’t tell you why RA “x” was fired, but I can remind you that it is illegal to consume alcohol on duty, regardless of your age.”) This destroys trust.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ON ETHICS, EXPECTATIONS and TERMINATION
Discussions about ethics and expectations has the potential to be threatening… because it can be perceived as the central staff forcing/telling student staff what is expected “or else.” Certainly we are doing that to some extent, however the power is not the focus, what is important is creating a team. This creates a work situation where the RAs trust us and we all care about one another. When that happens, it becomes less about who is boss, and more about the team. When a true team is created, and THEN a situation occurs, they remember that we care about them, and this creates a positive experience for everyone involved. Creating a true team is difficult – it takes a lot of time and effort… but it is well worth it!
So, the next time the words YOU’RE FIRED come to mind, if you remember some of these tips, it might make the situation a little easier, and create a more positive and useful learning opportunity for everyone involved.
This is the second half of our series on RA expectations and termination. In Part I, “Outlining Expectations”, we covered the key principles of trust, teamwork and ethics.
Submitted by Nicole Loyd, Assistant Director of Housing and Residential Life, Bucknell University