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Category: Professional Relationships

Terminating Employees

Losing your job is never easy, and having to fire someone is never easy either. It is much like breaking up in an intimant relationship. The best you can hope for is that the person being fired (or broken up with) is not surprised and knows it is coming. This makes it slightly easier to handle, but still a depressing and deflating experience. Here are a few tips on what to do if you are fired, and a few things to do if you have to fire someone.

If You Were Just Fired

  1. Calm down, don’t panic, and control your emotions – You cannot take back the things you say while you are being fired. If you flip-out and start yelling at the person firing you (often an HR person who didn’t make the decision) it won’t help you. Sure, you will feel better for 30 seconds or a minute, but in the long-run it will only hurt you.
  2. Use level-headed thinking when con­sid­er­ing legal options – In most cases the company is not dumb enough to fire you without just cause. To pursue a legal battle will only cost you money and time, both of you which you don’t have. Talk to multiple lawyers before even con­sid­er­ing going after the company. If the lawyer won’t talk to you for free initially, then they are probably just in it for the money… after all, it’s down economy for them too.
  3. File for un­em­ploy­ment – This should probably be #2, but con­sid­er­ing how litigious we are as a nation, I thought it was more important to talk about the avenue most people will pursue first. As for un­em­ploy­ment, don’t let pride cloud your vision… pride can’t pay the bills. Also, realize that un­em­ploy­ment is not a sure-thing. Depending upon why you were terminated, you might not get it. Check with you state’s department of labor.
  4. Update your resume – You cannot get a job without a resume. There are numerous websites and companies that can help you format and create your resume. In most cases you can find all the resources you need online.
  5. Talk to everyone you know, and everyone you don’t – Getting a job is more about who you know than where you apply. If you send your resume in via an online ap­pli­ca­tion process, most of the time you don’t have as good of a chance as if you send it in via someone you know. The key is to network. Hopefully you’ve done this before getting fired, but most people haven’t. Talk to everyone at your kid’s ball game, everyone at the bar, everyone everywhere… you never know when your next boss could be standing in front of you at the checkout line.
  6. Get on or update LinkedIn – For those that don’t know, LinkedIn is the pro­fes­sion­als equivalent to Facebook. You can post the places you’ve worked, what you did there, where you went to school, and other things about you. They also have the ability to cross reference jobs you’re searching for with people in your contacts. This way you have an “in” at the company you are applying to.
  7. Submit your resume to a recruiter – Recruiters are often used by companies to find qualified personnel. A recruiter can also provide you tips on how to fix-up your resume, handle an interview, and other job related tips. The only downside to using a recruiter is that the company has to pay as much as 30% of your salary. This will often lead companies to only rely on a recruiter in times of des­per­a­tion.
  8. Search the clas­si­fieds – No, not the newspaper (although you can do this too). It’s 2008, look on Craigslist for jobs. I know of a CEO of a start-up that recruits almost ex­clu­sive­ly on Craigslist.
  9. Be persistent without being annoying – To you finding a job is the most important thing going on in your life. To the person looking to hire, it probably is not. Regardless of how well staffed the HR department is, someone from the specific division you are looking to work in will probably need to interview you. They probably also have numerous other things going on besides hiring you. Therefore, use your inside contact to find out the best time to talk to this person. Keep your con­ver­sa­tions thorough but short… don’t waste their time.
  10. Ask other companies where you should work – It sounds desperate, but by item #10 you probably are. When you’re talking to HR people, or anyone at a company for that matter, apply item #5. Ask them if they know of any other jobs at com­peti­tors or in unrelated fields. Maybe that have a brother or mother that works at some company that is looking to hire. Again, it is all about networking.

If You Have To Fire Someone

  1. Don’t tell anyone that does not need to know – Rumors will occur no matter what you do. However, try and limit them by telling only those people that absolutely need to know, and only as much as they need to know. In one situation someone in HR, along with numerous other people, were being let go. Upper management did not tell that HR person, but the word got around. The HR person assured everyone that she had not heard of anyone being fired. When it actually happened, it was more of a surprise than it needed to be. If upper management had simply told the HR person that some people were going to be let go and to not answer any of those questions, the blow probably would have been softened.
  2. Don’t fire someone while they’re on vacation – There is never a reason to fire someone while they are on vacation. Lock them out of their accounts, e-mail, etc; then tell them in person when they come back to work. Granted, if they try and check their e-mail and it isn’t working, that will probably raise suspicions. However, nothing will ruin an already paid for vacation faster than finding out you’ve been fired. If you know they are going to be fired, don’t let them go on vacation in the first place.
  3. Always fire someone in person – E-mail, written letters, or God forbid a text message is not the proper way to fire someone. Have some respect for that person, regardless of what they’ve done, and fire them in person. This is going to be a tough time for that person and the least you can do is be pro­fes­sion­al and fire them in person.
  4. If possible, give them a severance package/ – You don’t have to provide them will full pay, or even any pay, but you should give them something. This all depends upon the job and the position; however, benefits are always a nice parting gift, even if just for a month.
  5. If the ter­mi­na­tion is amicable try and help them find another job – Let them keep their office to make phone calls, use the Internet, or send resumes. Give them the chance to resign (although this might affect their ability to collect un­em­ploy­ment.) Try and give them some of your contacts to give them a head-start. In the best situation this person might actually become a proponent of the company. People’s views of something are usually colored with the last major event that occurred… make their last day as nice as possible.

Managing Employees After a Mistake

Here are the highlights from a good article on the Both Sides of the Table Blog about managing an employee after a mistake. Managing employees after a mistake is akin to re-engaging in a relationship after a fight. While the foundation and purpose of a professional relationship and intimate relationship are vastly different, there are some similarities as well. Here are the steps to managing an employee after a mistake:

1. Highlight the error Best to do this after the situation has happened, not when emotions are flared on both sides or you wont have a rational discussion or reflection. Tell the person that you’d like them to reflect on what happened so you can debrief on the topic in 48 hours. Obviously if the situation is urgent you need to put the situation right before reflecting on what happened.

2. Discuss what you would have expected I never understood why when managers did reviews they’d say what you did wrong without a clear ex­pla­na­tion of what they think you should have done. If you don’t have an answer for what the right process or right behavior would be then you’re not going to be very effective in helping the person to be better next time.

3. Help them plan the new rules / process to ensure the mistake isn’t repeated Be a problem solver. Work on the new process with them. Talk about exactly what needs to happen next time. They need a map for success not just a this better never happen again arse kicking.

4. Don’t im­me­di­ate­ly go back to buddy buddy nice guy. To be an effective dis­ap­point­ed dad they need to feel a little distance and a sense that all is not OK. This is really hard as a parent because you want to just go up and hug your kids. I feel the lesson isn’t absorbed as much this way. Think of it as the penalty box or a time-out or whatever. But they need a cooling off period from being in your good graces. They need to know it is not OK what happened and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But not a sense that they are now not to be trusted. In fact, I think the best approach is if they feel they need to re-earn your trust.

5. Don’t yell. Yelling yields resentment in the receiver and often makes the message un­palat­able (I have a temper like anybody. I cannot say I’ve never yelled. I got really angry with my assistant, for example, but only one time since we’ve worked together. I yelled. I had regret for weeks and we had to spend way more time working through the issue because I inflamed the situation than would have been the case if I would have kept my cool. I lost twice. I had to rebuild trust. It worked against me, not for me.)

6. Praise people publicly, but discipline people privately If you do need to discipline people don’t try to make a public spectacle of them to set an example. People won’t learn they’ll just think you’re an asshole. People absorb their mistakes when they aren’t em­bar­rassed by them.