Truthfully, there is no proper way to fire someone. It is the end of the year and ad agencies and other companies have been preparing for 2013 by paring staff. This year, as always, I have heard so many stories that I thought it worth a comment.
I think it is wonderful that no one actually ever gets fired. They get cut back, laid off, downsized or reorganized out of a job, none of which is their fault. but if they are not the cause and are victims of circumstances, why are companies (not just ad agencies) so cruel?
It used to be that when someone was let go, they were generally given a couple of weeks notice (sometimes longer) so they could look for a job. At an appropriate time they were either given use of their own office or moved to another office for some period of time. Jerry Della Femina wrote about it in his wonderfully funny book, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor. (Mandatory reading for anyone who loves advertising.) He called it “the floor of forgotten men.” At some point those people either got a job or just stopped coming in. It happens slowly and inexorably, but it happens in the nicest way.
I always believed that anyone who worked for me should be terminated by me, not by HR or some unknown and faceless executive. But I guess I am unusual in my ethics. Today, it is rare for someone to be let go by their supervisor. More often than not, their supervisor disappears and some (often unknown) HR person makes an appointment and then does the “deed”. At that point, more than one person has literally been escorted out of the building. No chance to pack their things, no good-byes; doesn’t matter if they have worked there six months or six years.
It is a terrible way to end a relationship. Over the years I have heard horrendous stories of people being let go.
One theory says it is better for morale to have people quickly disappear. There is another that says that if terminated people are seen around the place it is bad for morale. Neither is right.
What happened to common courtesy and allowing terminated people to have some dignity?
If it is a reorganization or a cutback due to shrinking revenues, what is the difference? People should not be tossed out like they were never there. Being escorted out of a building or told to leave in a few minutes is totally demeaning. I understand that it is difficult for senior executives to have to face the people who used to work for them.. But I believe that that is the price one must pay to be a senior executive. The only people who should be made to leave immediately are those who are fired for real cause – gross malfeasance or some other heinous action.
What I don’t understand, is why a company would not want a terminated employee to leave in the best of circumstances, at least feeling as if they were let go in as nice a manner as possible. That would certainly minimize a lot of bad-mouthing and poor public relations.