Why Firing Someone Can be Like Breaking up With Your Girlfriend or Boyfriend

June 27th, 2014

The emotions behind firing an employee can be similar to breaking up with someone with thoughts such as:

‘Am I doing the right thing?’
‘Maybe things will get better.’
‘What if I don’t find anyone else?’
‘How are they going to react?’
‘We know a lot of the same people which will make things awkward.’

Then, there are the logistical thoughts:

‘Should I do this over the phone or in person?’
‘At my place or theirs?’
‘Maybe a public place would be best?’

Your concern for the other person can creep in and cloud your judgment as well with speculations such as:

‘If I give them more time they might change.’
‘I can’t break-up with them – they won’t have anywhere to go.’
‘They mean well and I know they aren’t the person they act like sometimes.’

The problem is when firing someone; you have to emotionally detach yourself from the situation. You have to do what is best for your company. It may sound heartless but if the person deserves to be fired, it has to be done. The question becomes “How do I fire this person?” There are a lot of factors to consider.

Do you see the situation as a high-risk termination where they may act out? Even determining that is a difficult process. There have been plenty of examples of someone becoming assaultive (or worse) during a termination that was unexpected. In many instances the fired individual returned to the workplace to attack their former colleagues. Companies have legislative responsibilities under Bill 168 in Ontario to protect their staff from workplace violence, so the liability goes beyond the assault itself.

When you are considering breaking up with someone, you lean on your friends to give you advice. When you are going to be firing someone, you need to lean on the industry experts to assist. Whether it is legal, HR, security or outplacement consulting, there are many variables to be considered. Here are just some of the items I cover with a client when dealing with a high risk termination:

  • Overview of company and facility where termination will take place
  • Understanding the subject fully

Precipitating factors outside of work, past discipline, years of service, previous background, hobbies, family life, other connections to workplace, ability to find comparable work/pay in area of residence, if applicable severance package being offered, etc.

  • Selecting the appropriate location and room
  • Preparing the room

Where the subject will sit, who will be there, what is in the room, what will be taken out of the room, etc.

  • Selecting the right time and day for the termination
  • Will the subject expect the termination or will it be a surprise

This is the difference between a potential premeditated event or an event that may occur post termination

  • Post termination requirements

Company items needing to be retrieved, cut-off of building access, increased security measures, support for the person terminated, etc

Think back to your high school days when you broke up with someone. If you or the person was inexperienced in breaking up with someone, it probably didn’t go well. Even those with experience can have problems. Domestic assault, ugly divorces, prolonged separations are all too common in our society. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that there is an abundance of employment terminations that don’t go well either. This is why it is imperative you have the right advice and support to make sure all appropriate measures are taken.

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