While face-to-face meetings are the best way to convey discipline or terminate an employee, it is not always possible with employees who work away from the home office or outside the country.
Video conferencing is probably the best alternative to an in-person meeting, because it allows all parties to experience most of what is being communicated, both verbally and non-verbally. Telephone conversations, while lacking the visual component, still take place in real time, which lets the parties take turns communicating. This allows the employer to convey emotion such as empathy (when appropriate), and enables the employee to ask questions and get closure.
Non-real-time methods such as email, “snail” mail, and courier are the least desirable options in most situations. Unlike video or telephone communication, these methods are one-sided and impersonal and can leave the employee feeling they’ve been treated unfairly and even disrespected. A disrespected employee is more likely to feel the termination was unwarranted and possibly discriminatory.
Disciplines and terminations, which are already a challenge, are even more complicated when they involve remote employees. If you can’t always meet with your employees face-to-face, consider which alternative is the fairest to the employee and the most likely to leave them with positive feelings toward your company.