AS I WRITE THIS, quite a bit of media attention has been given to the “F” word.
I’m not referring to the “F” word that our society and the “shock jocks” have corrupted and modified to fit every part of speech and, amazingly, every form of punctuation. Instead, I refer to the “F” word as so eloquently delivered by Donald Trump on his successful show, “The Apprentice.” Each week “The Donald” eliminated one of the participants vying for a position managing one of his companies.
Trump did it with a brief opinion and an even shorter statement of uncontestable fact, “You’re fired!” He did it with a quick movement of his hand, which signaled with absolute finality that the contestant was eliminated.
This is not an endorsement of the show as a way to do business. Clearly, his search would have been better served by early-on mass firings from a group of young people who seemed to be absolutely consumed by self-admiration. The fact that he kept some of the most obviously flawed people around for another week or two just made it a more entertaining show.
It is important for your company to have clear-cut rules defining firing offenses. If the rules are clear and well known, the person who is being fired can almost do the task for you without much intervention.
I have said before that in hiring someone, I have always told him that he must function honestly, soberly and morally in conducting the business of the corporation and in his relationship with me personally. We all know that today it is occasionally necessary to define what is moral, honest and sober behavior because many young people reach adulthood without ever having seen all three types of positive behavior embodied in one person.
I tend to break firing into three parts: 1) why people should be fired; 2) how they should be fired; and 3) some comments on picking up the pieces. Note, however, that these thoughts do not constitute legal instructions that are in accordance with the labor laws where you do business.
You will also note that some of these thoughts go back to the “good old days” when all the men married women, and all people living together were related in some manner or at least created face-saving cover stories.
You should not have both husband and wife working for you. It may happen that two of your carefully selected and talented employees fall in love and marry. No problem with this. It really does confirm your selection process in a positive manner. When this happens, however, one of the employees must resign.
Recognizing their signed non-compete agreement, they must find work elsewhere or devote themselves to old-time domesticity. If you’re lucky, this happens smoothly. If you’re unlucky, much as it may hurt you, someone should be fired. If your rules have been written clearly and are well understood by those who are affected, the friendly, compassionate firing takes no longer than it did on The Donald’s show.
It should be one of the strong recommendations of the company that employees should not become romantically involved with other company employees, should not live together and, if they intend to continue to be employees, should not marry. Obviously, they should not be forced to avoid marriage and live in sin because of your rules.
In the old days one of the things that happened was that employees would have romances but, understanding the severity of being caught, they kept them quiet and discrete. They were discovered only when the romantic couple came back from their elopement or were forced to announce the expected arrival of their first-born.
There are clear-cut, black-and-white reasons for firing. Discovered and confirmed theft is subject to immediate dismissal. It doesn’t matter who was the victim: you, your customer, a fellow employee, a department store or a stranger in the park. It is out the door with the legal minimum severance and the quickest route to the street. Since this is a known crook, watch the person packing for departure.
I do not include substance abuse in the “auto-fire” list. It seems that substance abuse gets too close to the “preacher” or, in this case, the legal people, so there is more leniency or laxity in enforcing these laws. I remain convinced that getting substance abusers out of your company still must be a top priority, but handle with care.
There are troublemakers and rabble-rousers. These are not necessarily people downstream in the organization. They can be supervisors, even company officers and, more unfortunately, sometimes disgruntled family members who take great sport in roughing up other team members. They are mosquitoes to be swatted quickly. They always ruin your sleep.
The list includes people who can’t be on time either with your regularly scheduled business hours or with their commitments to completing projects. They seem to gain their jollies by forcing others to wait for them.
We all know that this list is not complete and was never intended to be. The message is, if someone needs the “F” word, there is no better time to use it than now.
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