It’s a known truism: Something good happens to you and you tell five to 10 people; something bad happens and you tell everyone you meet.
A great deal of attention is rightly given to the way new employees are treated on their first day on the job. Some companies do little more than show them to HR. Others have their desk anointed with company swag, throw a lunch in the newcomer’s honor and make certain that they meet everyone.
The logic is simple: Just as a relationship that begins poorly will (probably) end poorly, so too a relationship that begins well, should end well.
But what is far too often forgotten is that how you end the relationship is just as important, maybe even more important, than how you start it. Telling someone their services are no longer required, giving them a few HR forms to complete at their convenience, a box to put their personal belongings in, and an escort out of the building, pretty much guarantees hard feelings that will remain forever.
Almost literally kicking someone out the door, unless they have committed a crime, is the same as throwing someone in the deep end of the pool and seeing if they can swim, or, if you prefer, dropping someone from the top of the building and seeing if they bounce! Not a good idea.
When someone is fired, or laid off, they are scared, embarrassed, confused, angry and feel alone. No employer should do that to an employee who has given their all. Some relationships just don’t work out. If anyone is to blame, it’s probably just as much the supervisor’s fault as it is the employee’s. But blame isn’t the issue, treatment is. How did the song go? R-E-S-P-E-C-T…
The correct way to let someone go is to sit with them, explain what happened and why, and offer them assistance. That can be career counseling services, severance, or continued access to some company benefits for a limited period. I remember reading about one company (it may have been GE when Jack Welch was in charge), that would give three- or six-months’ notice to an employee that they were going to be let them go and then allowed them to conduct their job search from the office!
At the end of his performances, the late Don Rickles liked to quote his father, “Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, they’re the same people you’ll meet on the way down!” And it’s true. I know plenty of people who have been fired and they all told me the same thing: “No one from the office ever called to see how I was doing.” It’s not just on the employer to make sure the exit is proper, it’s also on the employees.
A proper exit is everyone’s responsibility. After all, that former employee will probably stay in your industry and you never know where they will end up. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll need them and, believe me, they’ll remember their last day on the job a lot better than their first! I met one man who, after being fired, swore he would get even. He did. He went to work for a small competitor and, after 10 years, he was at the table when his new employer bought the previous employer’s company for pennies on the dollar. He made it happen.
Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS.