Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Firing with class

Is it possible to get fired with dignity?

I saw this sign of the times blog called tracking layoffs. That's a lot of folks. Too often, I hear about these layoffs done via email, by security badge deactivation, or fed-ex pink slip delivery. How about finding a new, smaller organization charts (without your name on it) left on the copier so you can figure it out for yourself. I am hoping I hear about this type of behavior because it stands out - because it's insane! WTF? That is not only cowardly but it's bad business.

  • Increased liability. If someone exits the company feeling like they got screwed over, it's much more likely they'll try to 'get back'. Perhaps they recall something they thought was discriminatory and take some legal action.
  • Bad press. There is such a thing as bad press. Companies pay buckets of money for goodwill and positive exposure. Angry ex-employees airing dirty laundry and talking telling others that the company is horrible is a bad thing.
  • Loss of morale and productivity. When you sit next to someone who exits in nasty fashion, your thoughts are not on working hard. More likely, you are checking your email for a termination note whilst searching for a job.
It was a couple of years back, but when Radio Shack made news by canning 400 via email. My problem with this is it appears they got very generous packages - three weeks pay for each year of service. Hourly employees got up to 16 weeks, while workers earning more than $90,000 a year will get 36 weeks. A generous and thoughtful payment is canceled out due to poor implementation.

I think this boils down to another case of crappy supervisory skills. It takes effort and isn't always pleasant to be a good supervisor.

GOOD FIRING: Wouldn't it be better if you already have a good relationship with your employees? You were open and honest about the company and communicated regularly (i.e. they knew the company was in tough financial times). You sat with the employee, in a comfortable private place and explained why the layoffs were necessary, and listed what the company was trying to do to make it a bit easier (i.e. payment of 3 weeks, help finding a new job thru outplacement agency or career counseling, offering to serve as a reference, giving time and help packing up and saying goodbye if the employee wanted).

A good firing is possible. I've heard Zappos (a favorite company to follow) let 8% of the company go, and some employees even wrote the CEO a letter thanking him for the opportunity, and the humane transition out.

Did you get fired in a good way? What made the pain a bit easier to deal with?

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