This CNNMoney Piece, "Firing horror stories" caught my eye, That’s partly because it offered a perspective I don’t always consider, while addressing a painful phenomenon only made more so in this recession.
Think getting fired is hard? Try doing the firing.
And when you are a small business owner it can be particularly hard.
At best, it’s an uncomfortable face-to-face confrontation that can lead to hurt feelings. At worst: physical altercations, hacked servers and lost clients.
"Large corporations have a team of people who can assist with hiring and training new people," said Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions, a Massachusetts-based consultancy. "Small businesses have much less bench strength when it comes to staffing and training."
They don’t have much when it comes to firing either. Here’s what seven disgruntled employees did to small business owners after they learned they were getting pink-slipped.
It reminds me of a saying I’ve heard a few times: There’s always three sides to every story — yours, mine, and the truth.
Like millions of people, I’ve been fired before. And as awful as it feels to get fired, I also get that — as the CNN piece mentions — it’s not exactly a walk in the park for those on the other side of the equation. Probably nobody or almost nobody, perhaps with the exception of Donald Trump, actually enjoys firing people. (Of course, that enough people enjoy watching people get fired for a network to build a show around it, says something about what we’re becoming as a country.)
So, I know on a deep, personal level that it sucks to get fired. It also sucks to do the firing. I get that, even though I’ve never been in the position of having to fire someone. I’d even say that it sucks to get fired, even when you probably deserve to get fired. And it probably sucks to do the firing even when the person getting the pink slip definitely has it coming. Even if it’s justifiable, it doesn’t feel good to receive or deliver the news.
It’s an unpleasant experience, fraught with anxiety on both sides. The person doing the firing has to be concerned, especially these days, about how the individual being terminated is going to handle the news. Are they going to cause a loud and unpleasant scene? Are they going to walk out to parking lot, come back with an assault rifle and start mowing people down? That’s part of the reason why security is present for a lot of terminations nowadays.
Or are they going to strike back in some other way, as the people referenced in the CNN piece allegedly did? There’s web developer who supposedly had a friend hack files after his termination, and the worker who poured a box of soap over her computer and destroyed the files she’d been working on before being fired (and, foolishly, posted the whole escapade on YouTube).
The anxiety of the person being fired can, of course, be summed up in a simple question: "What the (insert favorite expletive here) am I going to do?" That’s one of the biggest differences between the terminator and the terminated. The former has, from their perspective, gotten rid of a significant problem. They may have to find someone to filled the empty cubicle left behind, but they’ve still gotten rid of a big problem. The latter’s problems have, on the other hand, just begun. There are still bills, rent, and mortgages to pay, groceries to buy, etc., etc.
It’s hard to sympathize with the workers in the eight pieces featured in the CNN piece, especially as someone who’s been fired and walked away without taking similar actions, even though I’m not sure how much they all deserved to be fired. Each of the stories is told from the employer’s perspective, after all. A few justify the decision to terminate based on job performance. In others, readers can only guess that maybe these were "bad employees" or that firing was driven by economic reasons or by the bottom line." But 99% of us can related to the anxiety the formerly-employed are grappling with even as security escorts them to the door.
Either way, nothing justifies the behavior described in the CNN piece. But it made me wonder about the other side of the story.
Real Firing Horror Stories
It’s important to remember that "firing horror stories" work both ways. Sure, people can behave horribly when they’re terminated. But, as a 2010 post by Bill Shrink points out, employers can behave horribly when they’re terminating someone. There’s the guy who’s company kept him part time to avoid giving him benefits, then fired him because he got sick and spent five days in the hospital — as a result of his not going to the doctor (but continuing to work) because he didn’t have health insurance. And, of course, there’s the folks who get laid off after training their replacements in India. (This one, in fact, was the subject of a movie and television series — both comedies, at that, though not necessarily funny to everyone)
There’s no shortage of these stories. Sites like FiredWorkers.Com and FiredForNow.Com are repositories for stories of being fired of laid-off, all of which stand out for the callous and sometime cruel manner in which the deed was done. Sites like Gawker and Techdirt also feature such stories.Sometimes mainstream media outlets like ABC News cover the most bizarre and just plain cruel firing stories.
Actress Annabelle Gurwitch made an entire movie about being fired, after getting canned by Woody Allen, and invited people to share their stories about being fired. Laid-off NPR employees, on their way out the door, even compiled a list of the best layoff scenes in movies.
In real life, being fired or laid-off isn’t as funny in the movies, doesn’t include an uplifting soundtrack, and isn’t resolved in about 90 minutes, but is usually even more heart breaking.
What’s worse, especially in this economy, is what likely preceded that fateful meeting with H.R.