Firing an employee is a taxing experience both for the person and the manager who has to do it. That’s why managers absolutely must keep their emotions in check – and follow procedure – when terminating someone.

What happens when a manager loses his or her cool is graphically illustrated by a recent court case in Illinois.

A female employee of a dental practice claimed that one of the male dentists suggested she date another dentist, and pushed her to the floor when she refused.

The fall hurt her back, and she went to an emergency room. She filed a police report and later presented her employer with the hospital bill.

The manager she approached – it happened to be the owner – blew up. “Who do you think you are bringing the police into our office?” he yelled, adding, “Who the f*** do you think you are bringing me this hospital bill?”

The owner fired her on the spot, then compounded his conduct by ranting to other employees that she was crazy and had threatened to blow up the building.

Huge mistake. When the employee sued, she won big in court. Notably, a jury awarded her $250,000 for retaliatory termination, and a judge said the owner’s behavior amply justified the size of the award.

Keeping your calm
That was extremely bad boss behavior, to be sure. But even well-meaning bosses can sometimes let their emotions get the better of them — especially with something as stressful as a firing.

To avoid damaging displays of emotion while firing an employee:

  • Bring another manager or an HR representative in with you. You’re less likely to get emotional – even if provoked – in front of a peer.
  • Don’t fire on impulse. Unless the person has just attacked a co-worker or done something equally violent and unacceptable, wait a few hours or a day to collect yourself – and your supporting documentation.

Cite: Mendez v. Perla Dental, No. 08-2029, 7th Cir., 5/24/11.

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