“I’m afraid we have to let you go,” supervisor Tracy tells employee Matt. “Your performance hasn’t been what we’d hoped.”
“In what way?” Matt asks.
“You haven’t been completing projects on time,” Tracy says. “It’s gotten out of hand, and it’s hurting the company.”
Matt looks at her stonily.
Tracy is a little disconcerted. “And besides,” she goes on, “your colleagues – and I – don’t much like your attitude.”
“My attitude?” Matt repeats, incredulously. “Are you talking about the fact that I’m sometimes a little grouchy when my doctor adjusts my medication?”
Uh, oh. You can see this thing going south very quickly.
Tracy has committed a common error that supervisors make when firing someone for performance. She’s allowed herself to wander into tangential issues that only give the employee a chance to argue – now, and maybe later in court.
In this case, Tracy may have opened up a disability discrimination can of worms that Matt (and his lawyer) can gleefully exploit.
A good rule of thumb: If you have a good, documented reason for firing somebody — and of course you do; otherwise you wouldn’t be firing them — stick to that reason. Don’t try to “beef it up” with extraneous comments that will only get you in trouble.
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