I had to fire an employee today.
I’ve let a number of people go over the years and it’s never something anyone enjoys… not me as the manager and certainly not the employee.
But, it had to be done. His performance was definitely sub-par and it was affecting relationships with customers and hurting morale with good employees.
Here’s the thing, though – it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter that it went as good as it could go. It doesn’t matter that he knew it was coming. It doesn’t matter that we gave him a decent severance.
Unless you’re made of stone, it’s just horrible to have to sit down with a good person, completely disrupt their life, and cause them some amount of turmoil.
We’re talking about a nice guy with a wife (thank God no kids!) who just wasn’t cut out to work in the IT industry.
The first time I had to fire an employee
My last job decades ago was as a retail manager at a large discount chain. Letting people go was, unfortunately, a little more of a routine task.
Most of the problems were with kids who were just working as part-time employees and didn’t really care about their employment or performance.
Then, of course, you’d have the employees caught stealing or other significant issues.
The first time I had to fire an employee was when loss prevention had found out that a cashier had lied on her application. It turns out she had previously been convicted of a felony and said otherwise on the app. That was grounds for dismissal at the company that employed me.
It wasn’t pretty.
A fellow manager and I called her back to the office to talk to her. It was the holiday season and before we could even get the ball rolling, she started thanking us for the job and presented a small thank-you gift to us… ouch!
Obviously, she was devastated. She understood why her employment was being terminated, but that doesn’t make it any easier. She was crying as she left and the other manager and I felt like we were the worst people in the world.
But, here’s the problem – it was our job to do this. When you’re not the head chief, you don’t get to make the policies.
I was only in retail for about five years and only a couple of which were as management, but I was probably still involved in terminating about a dozen employees.
The employee I fired today
My career in IT is a little different. The longevity of most employees at this company is truly amazing. I’ve been there almost twenty years and still am a good decade behind a number of folks there.
Almost all the employees have made solid careers here and seem to enjoy their work for the most part.
Why do people stick around so long here?
I’m not entirely sure, but I will say that most everyone gets along well with each other to the point where it’s like one big dysfunctional family of close to 50 people.
Occasionally, though, we still have a bad apple at the company. I’ve only had to fire an employee every handful of years or so while here and almost all of those have been recent hires who don’t quite turn out like their résumé or interview.
The firing I just did though was an employee who had been around a little over a year and a half.
We had brought him over from another department in the company about a year ago and did our best to help him grow into a successful engineer in the company.
Nevertheless, he lagged behind everyone else and struggled to learn and develop his skills. He even had problems with the routine daily tasks he needed to do.
The other employees needed to check over his work every day because his results always seemed to be wrong. This made his co-workers start to become sick of it as well. They had to pick up the slack for him in addition to their own work.
His direct supervisor and I had written him up a couple times previously, so the expectations were definitely clear.
The worst thing you can do is nothing, though, and this was well overdue.
We brought him in and I explained to him that we were terminating his employment with the company due to his job performance. His supervisor reviewed some of the specifics of the problem and then I went through explaining the severance we had decided to offer and other details regarding his termination.
He didn’t have much to say and the whole process lasted about 5 minutes. He said he understood and we even shook hands at the end. For such a miserable task, it could not have gone any smoother.
So why did I still feel like #$% when it was done?
It’s because now I really understand the magnitude of this short, yet life-changing, duty.
I’m getting too old for this!
Unfortunately, part of my job in management is to fire an employee who isn’t doing their job. Do I like it? Obviously not, but it’s one of those things that just has to be done in my position in the company.
However, I’m not as young as I used to be and I’ve started to realize even more just how much this could truly affect someone’s life.
Getting a new job is sometimes a very difficult endeavor for many people. I’ve always had a path in my life and got to decide when I wanted to leave a company and move onto another. That’s not the case for everyone and many people live paycheck-to-paycheck making it even harder.
I don’t want to be the guy that forces someone to have to worry about how they’re going to pay their mortgage or feed their kids. At the same time, I’m not going to give up my position as a manager at my company or go elsewhere. This is the last W2 job I plan to ever have.
So what’s the answer?
The only real answer is to get out of the rat race.
We’re not meant to work day in and day out doing something we’re not excited about until we’re old. Life is meant to be enjoyed and spent with the ones you love.
Having to fire an employee today makes me even more determined to reach financial independence sooner than later. I really hope that my trip to Panama will be successful. If it is, that could be a true game-changer and would allow me to reach financial independence even sooner due to the lower cost of living.
Have you ever had to fire an employee? If so, how’d it go?
Thanks for reading!!