Firing Thoughts

by Evil HR Lady on February 17, 2010

Have you ever had to fire someone? I came across this podcast from This American Life, called Human Resources. In the opening sequence there is a sample firing.

I think the guy does a pretty good job, but I prefer a much more direct approach. Of course, there was a fade out, so I don’t know everything he said. But, you should listen to it anyway.

The next story is about the “Rubber Room” in New York City, where teachers are sent to sit and still get paid while the district is determining their fate. Contrast that with this town in Rhode Island that fired all the teachers.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

As for the teachers that all got fired:

Unions aside. If half the students were failing, then the teachers responsible for these failures do need to fired, and if that is everyone, then so be it.

In a normal job, a 50% failure rate in your work and you won’t be around long.

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Jonathan February 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I can't listen to the podcast right now, but I have had to fire many people, and yes, a direct approach is always the best. I've also sat in on a lot of firings, and when people deviate from a simple direct approach, things have gotten a little ugly.

My first termination was probably the toughest; I had to do a term for sexual harassment. Fun. In that situation, the direct approach was definitely best.

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Lydia February 17, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I've had to directly fire a good number people throughout my career, but mostly because of individual situations–not on a large scale. I too generally start with a "this is not going to be a pleasant conversation" type of opener. (I also start other HR-type conversations with "Don't worry, you are not being fired"!) I feel short and simple meetings are best. I also usually give the employee written material that includes what I've said because, as the podcast interviewer notes, there's a lot more going on in the employee's head than the current conversation.

I thought the George Clooney movie "Up in the Air" portrayed the firing sequences extremely well and appreciated the character's professionalism and pride in how he managed those situations.

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Lisa February 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm

If 50% of students were failing, there are problems throughout the school district (middle school and elementary) as well as the community. Please keep in mind that teachers can only teach, we can't force the kid to learn no more than we can force the parents to make sure their kid is doing their homework, going to bed at a reasonable hour and eating decent food.

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Marsha Keeffer February 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Firing is awful for both parties. Best to be simple and clear. We're hard-wired not to hear such things, so there has to be repetition.

Re. the teachers – unfortunate, but with that large number of students failing, they get an 'F' also.

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Ask a Manager February 18, 2010 at 3:10 am

Finding the online stash of "This American Life" podcasts was one of the best days of my life.

The one on testosterone was fascinating, and I also love the one about break-ups, where the girl writing her own break-up song calls Phil Collins for advice.

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Evil HR Lady February 18, 2010 at 8:30 am

I love This American Life. I listen to the old podcasts all the time. The ones on health care were so interesting.

I must check out the testosterone one.

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Jane February 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm

That's a fascinating interview, with the "executioner," but I think a lot of his methodological decisions were protecting him more than the people he's dealing with, and he didn't really seem to consider that possibility.

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Anonymous February 18, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I love This American Life and this article was a good one. I think it is great for people to understand the other side of firing people.

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Anonymous February 23, 2010 at 9:43 pm

I've had to fire several people for performance, and have also had to lay people off due to declining business. Lay-offs are much harder: the employee has done nothing wrong, but we can't afford to keep them. That's incredibly hard for them to hear, and for me to deliver.

My most memorable firing was for performance, where the guy in quesiton asked for his laptop for an hour to get some personal info. To cut a long story short, I found a lot of porn on that laptop that he'd (ineptly) tried to delete, and my assistant found a love letter to Baby Spice (yes, the Spice Girl) in his desk along with a few risque pictures of girlfriends past.

Then he tried to take us to court for unfair dismissal.

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Helping You HIre January 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm

As a provider of Staffing Services http://staffing-solutions.biz/ I find that the direct approach is always better. You must also be very careful that you obey the employee/employer laws and do everything by the books. This can get a very sticky situation.

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