Surprise! You’re fired!
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Surprise! You’re fired!

What’s the main reason that employees who’ve been fired turn around and sue their employer? Is it because:

  • They firmly believe they’re right and the employer is wrong?
  • They’re on the lookout for a big payday?
  • Their friends and family work them up into seeking revenge?

All of the above factors may contribute, but none of them is the main reason.

Steamed up
Terminated employees most often sue because they’re angry.

Now, think about times when you’ve gotten angry. Weren’t you almost always unpleasantly surprised? You know, your teenage son came to you with a sheepish look and the unwelcome news that he’d just driven the car into a pole. Or the airline that was supposed to take you to that critically important business meeting announced at the last minute that the aircraft had terminal mechanical problems and the flight was cancelled. It’s the same way for employees whom you decide to fire because their performance isn’t up to snuff.

If you’ve kept them apprised of your thinking – through realistic evaluations, reminders, performance improvement plans where necessary – they aren’t nearly as likely to be surprised when you call them in and tell them it’s the end of the road. And because they’re not surprised, they’re less likely to fly into a rage.

Poisoned sugar-coating
By contrast, if you haven’t been open with them – if you’ve sugarcoated their reviews, or overlooked their failings – it will come as one heck of a surprise to them when you call them in for that final meeting.

And they’ll get angry. And maybe sue.

So if you’d like to minimize employees’ anger when and if you have to get rid of them, remember to communicate — regularly and frankly — about their failings in the weeks and months before the termination becomes necessary.

Bonus: Sometimes if you do honestly communicate someone’s failings, the person will improve and you won’t have to fire them at all!

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