Bad News Comes in All Forms

Anytime someone is called into their manager’s office or told to meet their manager in HR, I have to think there is a sinking feeling in their gut. I happen to have witnessed this sinking feeling on the faces and in the words of employees who were being terminated when I worked in Human Resources. Communicating bad news like this is routinely unpleasant. But as unpleasant as this must be for managers or those who have worked in HR, it is inconsequential to the impact it has on employees hearing the words, “you are fired.” I don’t believe there is ever a “good” way to deliver such news and I am aware of all those experts out there recommending when and how to deliver such bad news. Recently, however, I was reading accounts of employees who have been fired by email and other poorly considered approaches, But one that takes the cake for me goes back a few years and involves a manager who appears to have fired one of his employees by Fax. Yes! You heard me right–by fax. It’s hard for me to fathom how this manager could come to the conclusion that this was a good way to communicate such bad news. I believe that firing is always a failure of one type or another and will develop this in further posts. This case, however, is near-epic in its failure to show any dignity or respect to the employee. Even bad employees still need to be treated with respect and this act demonstrated very little, as I understand the facts of the event.

Unfortunately, I suspect there are other examples out there and would love to hear from those former employees. If you know of someone, point them to this blog. Help me tell stories that need to be told and need to be told. Thanks.


About dfg603

Retired but still learning and yearning to contribute.
This entry was posted in Employee Relations, Employee Terminations, Human Resources, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bad News Comes in All Forms

  1. Larry Wilson says:

    In a perfect world we’d all have contemporary knowledge about our manager’s true beliefs about our performance, about the direction the company is going and about our company’s financials. But this isn’t a perfect world, so there are employees with no clue when they are about to be fired. Two questions for you: What should managers do differently and what should employees do differently so there are no surprises?

    Liked by 1 person

    • dfg603 says:

      I can’t agree more. This world is far, far from perfect and the modern workplace is proof perfect of that (no pun intended). When an employee has “no clue” they are about to be fired, we have several possible explanations. One may be that the employee has been oblivious to or just ignoring the prompting, guiding and training the supervisor has been offering. And, that’s an example of one of four common failure points I have witnessed over the years—the employee who won’t or can’t take feedback and guidance that is meant to help them succeed. And I find that failure very sad.

      A second type of failure, however, is the other side of this scenario. Perhaps some employees haven’t a clue because the supervisor has done little to clue them into their standing. I know many of us live under denial but too often I have seen employees who were clueless because the manager or supervisor was not courageous enough to have a “difficult conversation” with the employee. Therein, in my opinion, lies the beginning of what needs to be done differently. Both supervisors and employee need to have serious dialogues about performance expectations and standards. It’s not enough for the supervisor or manager to just think the employee should figure it out (and unfortunately, I have heard those precise words used by a manager to suggest they had no culpability in the failure of the employee). Sometimes the failure cycle starts long before there are apparent performance problems and really begins at the hire. And there we have another example of failure point but I will reserve my thoughts about that for a future blog. I have said all of this to say this. Without deliberate, intentional and regularly scheduled dialogue between the supervisors and managers, I believe this failure will repeat itself over and over again. And, I can think of but one word for that kind of failure—tragedy.

      Liked by 1 person

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