Here's a question. Let's say you manage a dispersed team, and it becomes necessary to terminate someone at a remote site. It's not a RIF — perhaps the issue is performance, or something even more difficult. And let's say that traveling there probably would be a two-night stay, because of the flight schedules and time required "on the ground." You're tempted to do it by phone, or videoconference, or something not involving travel. Is that OK?
It's probably not OK. Actually making the trip is better for the employee, better for the company, and probably better for you.
The temptation to find an "easier" way comes about because we don't usually have budget to cover such travel. But the root of the problem isn't a shortage of money. If you suddenly found an error in projected materials prices, you'd find the money somewhere, right?
Rather, the root of the problem is a mistake in setting priorities. When the budget was first approved, someone failed to allocate for the cost of distant terminations. Now, facing unplanned expenditure, that error isn't seen as important enough to put right.
Choosing to find a more "cost effective" method of termination only makes it possible for the company to continue to act irresponsibly. By taking responsibility for this problem now, and by refusing to export the penalties for the error onto the person terminated, we help the company to mend its ways.
Even if The root of the problem
is a mistake in
setting prioritieswe do decide to travel to carry out the termination, we might be tempted to do it on the cheap. For tricky and possibly hostile terminations, it's common to have an HR representative "sit in," but for remote terminations, we sometimes don't take HR with us, to save money. Foolishness. If anything, it's more important to have HR present for a remote termination.
The most important reason to travel is respect. How would you feel if you were terminated by phone, fax, or carrier pigeon? Not good, I suspect. The effect on other staff is also important. Everyone is watching. If you do it remotely, some bystanders might feel disrespected, too. Some might start looking for alternative positions, while others might become demotivated. It's a lot cheaper to buy the airplane ticket than to replace people you didn't want to lose.
Often, the person terminated wants to vent. Usually, through the anger, there are at least a few nuggets of truth, and as the supervisor, you're the person best able to convert those nuggets to real value for the company. By listening — in person — you'll do much to calm the waters, and perhaps emerge from the meeting having done some good — for the person terminated, for the company, and maybe even for yourself. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Ethics at Work:
- Non-Workplace Politics
- When we bring national or local political issues into the workplace — especially the divisive
issues — we risk disrupting our relationships, our projects, and the company itself.
- Email Ethics
- Ethics is the system of right and wrong that forms the foundation of civil society. Yet, when a new
technology arrives, explicitly extending the ethical code seems necessary — no matter how civil
the society. And so it is with email.
- Currying Favor
- The behavior of the office kiss-up drives many people bats. It's more than annoying, though —
it does real harm to the organization. What is the behavior?
- More Things I've Learned Along the Way
- Some entries from my personal collection of useful insights.
- Appearance Antipatterns: I
- Appearances can be deceiving. Just as we can misinterpret the actions and motivations of others, others
can misinterpret our own actions and motivations. But we can take steps to limit these effects.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.