On today’s episode of SHRM Live, JoDee Curtis speaks with William Tincup about having an empathetic severance strategy with your employees.  The employee experience extends from their first interview to their [avoidably] bitter end. While firing best practices are definitely subjective, showing empathy and understanding is a universal truth.

Conversation Highlights on Firing Best Practices:

JoDee Curtis:

So many people are worried about retaining and recruiting! The last thing they want to hear about is letting people go.

We have to show empathy because we have to make this a good experience. Sometimes we’re frustrated with the person and we’re thinking: I don’t really care if they have a good exit experience. But the people around them are watching how you treat those people. They’re watching their friends lose their health insurance and their title and their paycheck.

Tune in for the full conversation!

Listening time: 16 minutes.

GEM Recruiting AI

Enjoying the podcast?

Thanks for tuning in to this special SHRM episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast. SHRM Talent converges top talent from across the HR and Recruiting space. Luckily, William Tincup is lifting up the curtain to blessed you with some insight from these industry titans.

JoDee Curtis is the owner of Purple Ink. Recruiting, training, and all things HR consulting is her specialty. But, her passion is creating a joyful workplace. Her SHRM presentation was on firing best practices, and how to show a little bit of love during the separation process.

If you’re digging the podcast, subscribe through your favorite platform!

JoDee Curtis
Owner Purple Ink llc

I am wired to think positively about creative solutions for people issues. I spent many years in accounting, and realized that while I could do the work well, my true strengths and passions were not being fully used. People were seeking me out to handle their people issues and create positive cultures. Starting Purple Ink has been a joy because we have fantastic clients and our team has been a part of helping them reach their business and people goals.

Follow Follow

Intro (00:01):

This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, live from SHRM Talent. Real talk about talent acquisition, recruiting, sourcing, and hiring. Are you in talent acquisition? Then listen up because we’re about to blow your mind. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup (00:27):

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have JoDee on from Purple Ink, and we’ll be talking about a couple things today. We’re at SHRM Talent in Denver at the Gaylord. And it’s beautiful, wonderful venue. And so, JoDee, would you do us a favor, the audience a favor, and introduce both yourself and Purple Ink?

JoDee Curtis (00:49):

All right. Thank you. Hi, I’m JoDee Curtis, and my company is Purple Ink. Ink. That’s ink with a K, and we are an HR consulting firm based out of Carmel, Indiana, just on the north side of Indianapolis. We have 22 people, and we really do all things HR. Except we don’t do payroll, and we don’t sell health insurance benefits. But we’re recruiting and training and coaching and helping people without placement and career coaching and really the whole gamut of HR.

William Tincup (01:28):

So I’ve been to SHRM Indiana a number of times.

JoDee Curtis (01:33):

Oh, yes.

William Tincup (01:33):

Such a wonderful conference.

JoDee Curtis (01:35):

Well, ironically, I’ve actually been the conference chair for HR Indiana for like six years. So.

William Tincup (01:41):

It is literally a fantastic conference. Really, really well put together.

JoDee Curtis (01:45):

Thank you. Thank you.

William Tincup (01:45):

So good for you and good for your team. So with HR consulting, you kind of have two different flavors of this. It’s usually former practitioners that basically say, okay, enough is enough. I’m going to go, and there’s a better way, et cetera. And then sometimes it’s people that have just see a void in the market. How did Purple Ink come to market?

JoDee Curtis (02:07):

Yeah, so I’m actually a CPA by trade, if you can believe that. I spent 21 years in public accounting. Little less than half of that, I was a practicing CPA auditor, but kept volunteering for things like recruiting and training and kept finding how much enjoyment I was finding out of that, and moved into an HR role with my first firm, then got really wild and crazy and left and went to another CPA firm. And I really had a great career, and public accounting was a fascinating experience of learning about so many other companies.

 And when the recession hit in 2008 and 2009, my company was doing well. But we weren’t growing at the trajectory that we had been. And for the first time in my career, I was bored. You know, we weren’t recruiting much. We weren’t doing a lot of training. We weren’t looking for new approaches or new activities in HR. And I realized how much I loved change. And I would never have been able to articulate myself that way until I didn’t have change.

 And a long-term mentor of mine said, “You need to go into consulting.” And I said, “No, I’m not.” And then, a few minutes later, he said, “You still need to go into consulting.” And I said, “No, I’m not.” And finally, I decided I need to go into consulting. And in May 2010, Purple Ink was formed, and it’s been the greatest career move I’ve ever made.

William Tincup (04:05):

So you and I have something in common. I came from marketing.

JoDee Curtis (04:09):


William Tincup (04:09):

And fell in love with HR.

JoDee Curtis (04:11):


William Tincup (04:12):

And fell in love with recruiting in much the same way. And I still love marketing, but it’s like, I found my people. I found my tribe, if you will.

 I love HR people. I love recruiters.

 It’s just a, it’s a different bid, especially with HR and you know this. They know the dark crevices of everything in the company.

 They know the sexual harassment claim.

 They know the pay inequities. They know everything.

JoDee Curtis (04:33):

They see performance reviews.

William Tincup (04:36):

They see all the dark, all the dark stuff. Yet, they’re still hopeful. By and large, when you talk to an HR person, they’re still hopeful.

 And I love that.

JoDee Curtis (04:45):

I do too. I do too.

William Tincup (04:46):

Cause I’m not that way. So I love people that are opposite than me.

 So with your background being a CPA, how is that translated? How have you been able to help bring kind of a numbers, more of a mathematical approach to your customers?

JoDee Curtis (05:03):

Yeah, it’s funny. I always tell people in hindsight that the numbers were too easy for me so I moved on to people. All my CPA friends won’t think that’s so funny. But I want to wear my HR hat all the time, but that accounting hat comes out all the time. Well, of course, now that I’m running my own business and actually doing my own accounting, I’m seeing it. But I also see things like turnover and time to fill and the costs that so many hidden costs in there that business owners cannot get their hands around.

William Tincup (05:45):


JoDee Curtis (05:46):

And I just can’t not see those.

William Tincup (05:50):

Oh yeah.

JoDee Curtis (05:50):

I can’t not see those costs.

William Tincup (05:52):

Well, you can’t un-know what you know.

 That’s the same thing with being in marketing.

 When somebody asks me a question, it goes through a marketing lens, then comes back over through an HR recruiting lens.

JoDee Curtis (06:01):

Right. A hundred percent.

William Tincup (06:02):

And I think that actually makes you special because I think some of the things that could blindside HR recruiters is around costs that they just haven’t considered because they didn’t grow up that way. They didn’t go to school. They didn’t take those classes. You know, all of that. They didn’t go to those certifications, et cetera. So, fair enough.

 You’re speaking at SHRM Talent.

JoDee Curtis (06:25):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

William Tincup (06:26):

And tell us a little bit about your bid. What are you, what’s your topic?

JoDee Curtis (06:29):

So my topic is breaking up is hard to do. The old Neil Sedaka song.

William Tincup (06:37):

Yeah. Yeah.

JoDee Curtis (06:37):

Right? But it’s kind of– Even I was thinking, just flying out here to Denver yesterday that so many people right now are so worried about retaining and recruiting that the last thing they want to hear about is letting people go. So I’m wondering if anyone will actually show up for my session now tomorrow.

William Tincup (07:02):

Oh no. Cause no matter what, you still– there’s going to be those moments where you’re going to have to let folks go, for whatever reason. You still need to know how to do it with empathy and all of those things, so.

JoDee Curtis (07:12):

Right. And I’ve just had so many experiences, not on getting let go, thankfully, but in letting people go, throughout my career. And I just think that we can do it so much better. We can be better than that. And also that those people who are leaving the organization, as you said, for many reasons. Maybe a relocation, maybe they got married, maybe the company relocated or left.

 They can be our advocates. They can be our salespeople. They can be our amplifiers out in the community by saying, “Hey, I had a great experience at this company. You know, things happened. It didn’t work out, but I recommend them for other people or other organizations.” Or, “I recommend you apply there.” So it’s all about creating a positive candidate experience from the time they apply to your company to the time it might be to end that relationship as well.

William Tincup (08:22):

There’re going to be an advocate. It just depends on whether they’re going to be an advocate for you or against you.

JoDee Curtis (08:22):

Absolutely. Absolutely.

William Tincup (08:28):

Yeah, especially with social media. They’re going to be an advocate, one way or another. You pick. Tell us what makes, what’s the kind of the genetics of a great big breakup. Like what, what should we be thinking about as practitioners? What are some of the things that you love to take to give people advice?

JoDee Curtis (08:48):

Yeah. So you use the word empathy, which I’ve been known not to have a lot of actually.

William Tincup (08:55):

You do.

JoDee Curtis (08:55):

So I actually had to be very intentional.

William Tincup (09:00):

Did you have to go look it up? Like what the definition of

JoDee Curtis (09:03):

I did. I did. And I’m a big Clifton StrengthsFinder fan. And I know that empathy is a very high number for me. High as in close to 34, not close to number one.

 But we have to show empathy because and we have to make this a good experience. Sometimes we’re frustrated with the person and we’re thinking, I don’t really care if they have a good experience. But the people around them are watching. They’re watching how you treat those people. They’re watching their friends lose their health insurance and their title and their paycheck.

 And we need to be kind and helpful and allow them time to pursue a new opportunity or give them– if you need to get them out the door immediately, consider giving them a severance or outplacement assistance where someone can help them find something new. It’s also– sometimes when we’re letting people go, they’re fantastic people. They just weren’t the right person for that role or for that opportunity. So, yeah.

William Tincup (10:21):

So now I want to ask you some pandemic-related questions and really learns. We’re not technically out of the pandemic, I guess. But we’ve had two years of it. So now we can at least talk about what we’ve learned so far. For you, we’re going to do it in three ways- you, your team and your customers. But for yourself, what do you think the biggest lesson that you’ve learned through the pandemic?

JoDee Curtis (10:46):

Well, I kind of work in a hamster wheel where I’m going full a hundred miles ahead at all times. And for me, it was difficult for me to adjust to a slower life and not be networking and not be seeing people all the time. And I kept telling myself “It’s okay, it’s okay to be home. It’s okay to not be going a hundred miles an hour.”

 And also, that was a learning opportunity for me, not just to learn to slow down a bit, but to learn, period. I mean, I started listening to more podcasts. I read more books. I got a certification during that time. I do want to keep moving. I wasn’t going to be laying around the house in my pajamas, but I could take it as an opportunity to learn some new skills. And I did.

William Tincup (11:46):

That’s fantastic. What about your team? What do you think you’ve learned about them or the team’s learned in this experience?

JoDee Curtis (11:53):

Yeah, you would think maybe HR consulting firms would, could have been good for the pandemic, but it was a huge crash for our team. We do a lot of recruiting. We do a lot of training. We do a lot of consulting gigs that all got shut down, at least for a while. People weren’t bringing new people on. They weren’t looking for additional training. And there was a lot of humility in there.

 My team also though was so flexible. I know flexibility is one of the obvious words that comes out of the pandemic. But many of them who did have kids at home were able to spend more time with their kids and just work less. But they were also resilient through it. And they also wanted to learn more and they also wanted to hang on so that we were well prepared for coming out of that. And although, I agree, technically we’re not out of it, but our business has grown threefold.

William Tincup (13:07):

Oh yeah.

JoDee Curtis (13:08):

Since that first eight months.

William Tincup (13:10):

Well, it’s the waves. So we went through this initial and then what are we going to do? And then, it kind of, okay, looks like it’s going– and then something else. So it’s several waves, but it’s that burstability that your firm has already been set up for that people know that okay, there might be some downtime. Okay. What can I do with downtime to leverage that or maximize that? And then, oh, by the way, now we need to go a hundred miles an hour.

JoDee Curtis (13:37):


William Tincup (13:38):

Okay. All right.

JoDee Curtis (13:39):

Maybe 200 miles an hour.

William Tincup (13:40):

Oh yeah, client needs that training on Tuesday. Well, great. It’s Monday. Sure.

JoDee Curtis (13:48):

We can do it.

William Tincup (13:48):

Yeah, you can.

 So the last thing is Purple Ink itself. What do you think that the company has learned about its customers through this pandemic?

JoDee Curtis (13:57):

Yeah. I think one of the things that has been so fascinating about the pandemic– as I mentioned, I started my business really towards the end of the recession in 2008 and 2009 that virtually everyone was impacted by the recession. But during the pandemic, there were companies that thrived, that grew, that had products that we needed, that took out loans from credit unions and banks to add onto their house because they weren’t traveling.

So a lot of our clients were doing really well. And a lot of our clients couldn’t shift to all of their people working from home. So I think for a lot of our clients, it was a new opportunity to think about awareness and to not make assumptions about who’s doing well and who’s not, and who might need more assistance than others as well, too.

William Tincup (15:04):

Drops mic. Walks off stage. JoDee, thank you so much for coming on to RecruitingDaily Podcast.

JoDee Curtis (15:10):

Thank you. Thank you so much.

William Tincup (15:11):

Alrighty, take care.

Speaker 1 (15:14):

You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcasts, webinars, articles, and news at recruitingdaily.com.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


Please log in to post comments.