I wrote last week about how companies humiliate employees being let go. It reminded me that I have been keeping a mental list of horror stories I have heard about how companies terminate employees, I thought I would share the top ten list. Some are far worse than others. Some are almost unbelievable, but all of them have happened. The couple of examples I used in last week's post really belong on this list, but they would be redundant.
· 1) An American who was a worldwide account director and always traveling abroad was fired by telegram while he was in Warsaw, Poland. He had to tell both his client and his agency why he couldn’t attend the scheduled meeting.
· 2) An Assistant Account Executive was fired on his third day of work after leaving a secure job. The agency had lost a major account on the day he started. The deed was done by an unknown HR person. When his group head (who was not given the courtesy of being told) confronted the HR Director, she was told, “Why not? We decided that last in first out.” When the group supervisor responded that she had other account people in her group who deserved to be let go, the supervisor was told to mind her own business. The assistant account executive left the business.
· 3) A young Account Executive had the misfortune of coming in early. The chairman of the agency asked to see the results of a copy test which had come in the previous evening and was due to be presented to the client later that day. The chairman did not like the scores and asked the account person to change them and make up new numbers. The AE was taken aback and was not sure what to do; he decided to wait for his supervisor to come in; twenty minutes later, the chairman asked to see his revisions. When the AE told the boss he was waiting for his supervisor, he was immediately let go for insubordination.
· 4) A very senior media executive was allowed to fly to Detroit on business. Her company knew they were going to let her go. After spending the night in a hotel, at 8:30am she was called by her boss and HR and terminated and told not to attend the meeting; it was a mass termination.
· 5) There was a president who was taken out to an elaborate dinner at The Four Seasons with his wife. The sumptuous meal was accompanied by an extraordinary and expensive wine. The next morning he was fired and told that the dinner replaced severance (he had no contract).
· 6) I know of at least one senior executive who was terminated by phone while on vacation with his family.
· 7) There was the son of a well-known ad agency president who was let go on his first day of work because the person who hired the son had no idea that the agency had a policy of not hiring the relatives of other agency principals.
8) A senior vice president was fired while her children were in the office – remarkably, it was “bring your kids to work” day.
· 9) There was a new, well known EVP who was short. On his first day of work, he was confronted by another employee and asked how he felt about being the oldest person at the agency. The new EVP replied, “Not nearly as bad as being the shortest.” He was let go about twenty minutes later.
10) An Executive Vice President was presenting her first brand review to her new agency president. She ran the largest account at her agency, one of the biggest in the country. He kept asking her what the point was of what she was saying. Ten minutes into her presentation, he fired her telling her that she was boring him and her client. It ws clear he knew he was going to do this before she started.
Each of these terminations have one thing in common: All the people who were let go were totally surprised. No company should do that to an employee of any tenure – a day, a week or several years.
Years ago, when people were let go, they were routinely given use of an office for a period of time to make the transition more palatable. Most people only used the office for a week or two. It was a far nicer system until the lawyers took over and changed the system. I actually previously wrote about courtesy to employees being terminated.