A Dismissal Shouldn’t Come As A Surprise

a dismissal shouldn't come as a surprise

Someone once reflected with me in my capacity as an HR Leader that how people are treated as they leave an organization sends a message to the people who remain with it. Is that one of the reasons we have goodbye luncheons for those who resign? So that people remaining in the organization have something to look forward to? Such luncheons are not my focus though I attended one recently and commented to the exiting intern that “everyone must be happy to see her go.” Really a digression and if my sarcasm doesn’t suit you well, then I am SO SORRY (more sarcasm implied).

This is an apolitical call-out of a couple of situations I’ve seen recently in which people were given contrary or no information about performance then summarily terminated or removed from an organization. I’ve been around enough to know that a lot does or should go into determining how to handle what is typically a challenging situation. “Surprise” is the common reaction of most people at the point of their termination. While the surprise may not always be warranted, in these two cases it seemed to be. I challenge everyone responsible for notifying someone of their termination to be able to look themselves in the mirror and answer honestly to their reflection that:

  1. The person should not be surprised because of previous feedback or other discussions.
  2. Though this may be a surprise, it’s being handled in such a way as to reflect the value of the person and the integrity of the organization.

In those expectations, there IS room to protect the organization from someone’s wrongdoing, etc. There is NOT room for unfounded, shock and awe driven by fear, low-expectations, or projection of one’s own character.

The two recent scenarios of which I speak are:

  • Of course James Comey’s removal from the FBI.
  • The termination of one of my friend’s business contracts which was not unlike Comey’s firing.

Let’s back up from the terminations. In each of these examples, there were significant tenure, relationships, projects-in-process, and no or only positive feedback. Because they care, have invested in their work and relationships, there is a desire for transition. For closure. To make sense of the situation. Like a farmer proud of their field and wanting to finish what they start and expecting feedback about the straightness of their rows.

Providing meaningful and timely information about someone’s path, performance shortfalls or even the need to change direction is a high-integrity way to allow them to come to their own sense of transition, their role in the process and their own conclusions.

Feedback can be difficult. The payoff should be positive. Maybe they, straighten-up, change direction within or out of the organization. Short of that you can at least look yourself in the mirror and answer question one affirmatively.

The world is full of feedback from people who care! Kids in sports get feedback. My wife provides me feedback. We talk to our kids, service providers, and unseen sellers on Amazon and eBay.

“No news is good news.” Words have meaning and we all know emojis can too. I wonder if there will be a day we return to communication with pictures 🤔.

Make the effort to tell people how they are doing and what’s going on. Draw them a picture. It strikes me that people act with low integrity because they expect others to act with low integrity. Conversely, maybe if we do the right thing, others will too. If nothing else, don’t start at a point of low integrity. Start with humanity.  Start with trust. Start with meaningful and authentic dialog. If the response is one of low integrity, then that’s on THEM. At least you can look in the mirror and positively answer question two and improve the likelihood of mutual understanding. Click To Tweet

Typically, leaving someone confused leads them to look for answers. Sure the response might be low integrity but it’ll more likely be something longer satisfying to help them make sense of the situation:

  • Escalation within the organization
  • Outreach to peers, an attorney, or a governmental agency
  • Usually a Congressional Hearing or Special Prosecutor is not one of the paths, but other hearings and prosecutors may be

Ironically, at this fork in the road, you’d prefer that they talk to you. Get it!?! – you were uncomfortable or did not care enough to have meaningful conversation with them and now that they have the ball, you’d like them to talk to you. Surprise – sometimes you get what you give!

If you are in a position to make decisions impacting the lives of others, be careful. . . CARE FILLED. 😃 👂🏽 🌾

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Jim Fox

Jim Fox

Jim Fox has been in the recruitment business long enough to have some good stories. Admittedly, that doesn’t take very long, but you get the idea. Jim led the Human Resource team for Recruitment Process Outsourcer, The RightThing and for ADP’s Talent Acquisition Solutions businesses. Currently, as ThePeopleFox, he provides advice on talent acquisition and human resources with respect to brand, process, and technology. He believes in the importance and power of people in the workplace and welcomes robots too if they have the right skills. You can follow Jim on LinkedIn.

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