Recently, there was some discussion on how to properly terminate an employee. Sometimes people learn best by hearing what not to do. The following are real examples of various employee terminations from a number of companies. Feel free to add more to the comments or describe what you would have done differently.

The False Promise

One employee had been called into the conference room and told that their performance was not where it needed to be. Managers had defined clear goals for this employee to reach by a deadline in order to keep their position and attend an up-coming company retreat. The employee was able to reach all the goals set, and was reassured their position was safe. Only days before the company retreat the employee was called into the conference room once more and let go. The reason? The employees work was not where it needed to be.

Why is this so dangerous? It creates fear and uncertainty among employees. They can no longer trust that doing what they are asked is what they need to be doing. That department had spoken to managers later explaining that they felt under-appreciated which isn’t a surprise but it is a great way to lose your best talent.

A Dirty Secret

One of the senior level staff members of a company was trying to re-organize their team. It had been a long process, but they had significantly decreased incident reports and increased the accountability of team members. Of course, change always brings about some level of discomfort and a few vocal employees made their case to other senior level staff. The company decided that this manager should go, but unfortunately the manger had just left for vacation and wouldn’t be back for two weeks. It was then decided that the whole company would be told of the manager’s dismissal, but then instructed to not tell the manager. Accounts were locked down and the manager found out when he returned to work.

Why is this so dangerous? Firing employees never feels great. What this company did was unfair to the lower level employees. The stress and ill feelings associated with a firing shouldn’t be any of their concern and they certainly shouldn’t be asked to skirt the issue when their manager asks why a login isn’t working.

Take a Number Please

If you have been through a mass-layoff then you know they are never fun. This particular company decided the best way to handle the situation was to have every manager spend the day calling people one-by-one into their office. The process was mechanical and unsympathetic. Every employee knew immediately that if their name was called they would need to pack their things, but they still had to do a sit-down debrief before being escorted off the premises.

Why is this dangerous? It puts people on-edge and dramatically reduces productivity. The employees left are left in fear wondering if their name is the next to be called. Nobody feels relieved at the end of the day, just shocked.

All Together Now

Another less-ideal mass layoff strategy was this one. A company called all of the employees from various departments into a conference room for a non-descript meeting. They were all then told by a manager via a phone call that they had been terminated. It was not personal or private.

Why is this so dangerous? You don’t know how the employees will all react. They may come out of that room crying or they may come out of that room throwing chairs. It also shows a great disregard for the individual achievements and work that an employee has had.