I don’t know why, but I’ve been in a nostalgic mood lately; probably due to my ever advancing age. In any event, while at lunch today, the topic of discussion in the break room turned to the rights which companies have when it comes to terminating the employment of individuals on their payroll.
One of my responsibilities was to always be involved in the process of terminating the employment of individuals who, for acts of either omission or commission, had managed to become persona non grata, or for the Latin-challenged in the audience, “an unwelcome person.”
It’s unfortunate that I have to report that in those ten years, I was involved with more firings, as we say here in the States, than I can recall. But there are two cases which so clearly stand out from the rest that I will never forget them.
What makes these two episodes memorable is that in each case, I had to discharge the individual twice before they finally got the message that they really didn’t work there anymore.
The first case study in redundant termination of employment occurred on a lovely Friday afternoon in early spring. I was sitting in my office quietly contemplating how I would be spending my weekend when my telephone rang.
“You need to get down here. We’ve got a situation on our hands! ”
I recognized the voice as one of the manufacturing managers. He told me to meet him on a stretch of pavement that passed between his department and an adjacent warehouse.
When I got there, I found him standing beside one of his employees who, at the time, was lying prone and unconscious on the pavement. As I leaned closer to examine the young man, I caught the first unmistakeable whiff of Eau de Jack Daniels.
The young man enjoying his repose on the tarmac was stone cold drunk. He apparently had a bottle secreted away somewhere in the warehouse and had stepped over for a quick mid-afternoon restorative, but presumably had enjoyed one too many libations resulting in his untimely and unfortunate faltering on the way back to his work area.
To get on with the story let me summarize by saying that we picked the young man up from the pavement, helped him to regain consciousness in the manager’s office, and then informed him that he was no longer employed by the enterprise. We also had someone drive him home.
Case closed, or so I assumed.
Early Monday morning, I was sitting in my office quietly contemplating how I had spent my weekend when my telephone rang.
“You need to get down here. We’ve got a situation on our hands! ” I recognized the voice as that of the same manufacturing manager with whom I’d spent the previous Friday afternoon.
“He’s back! He’s out there working away as if nothing happened. What are we going to do? ”
I went down to the manager’s office and had him bring in the young man. After asking him if he recalled anything about Friday afternoon, he squinted one eye, cocked his head as he studied the ceiling tiles, and then slowly responded, “Well, now that you mention it, no I don’t really remember much about Friday.”
I walked him back through the travails of that fateful day and explained to him that as of the previous Friday afternoon, he was no longer an employee of the company.
He seemed somewhat embarrassed and looking at both of us said, “I guess I’m just going to have to take your word for it.”
“Yes, you are.” I responded as I walked him to the door.
The second case of redundant termination which I dealt with didn’t involve altered states of consciousness. It was a more run of the mill severance of the employment relationship involving a middle-aged man, let’s call him Joe, who was known to have a bit of a temper.
One afternoon, Joe allowed his emotions to get the better of him resulting in his calling into question the virtue of his supervisor’s mother in a loud and somewhat perjorative manner. Since Joe chose the manufacturing floor as his bully pulpit, everyone in his department, as well as those adjacent to it, were instantly privy to his somewhat biased opinion.
Again, the outcome was never in doubt. After arriving on the scene and conducting a thorough investigation, I explained to Joe that his services were no longer needed and wished him well in his next endeavor.
Two days later, I was sitting in my office quietly contemplating why I had ever become a Human Resource Manager when my telephone rang.
“You need to get down here. We’ve got a situation on our hands! He’s back! He’s out there working away as if nothing happened. What are we going to do? ”
(Is there an echo in here?)
“Oh hell! I’ve been thinking on it and I’ve got to work someplace. It might as well be here! ”
“Well Joe,” I replied cooly “Why don’t you just walk along with me while I explain a few things to you …… and wish you well on your next endeavor.”
All in a day’s work in the rough and tumble world of Human Resource Management.
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