All Fired Up
Unless the state and federal laws have changed without my knowing, parts of your [April 15, 2001] “How to Fire People” article are highly misleading. The statement “Employers need to be particularly careful with the reasons they give for firing people, especially when the employees fit into the protected classes of women, minorities, homosexuals and adults over 40” is not accurate. Homosexuals are not protected under federal laws. Some individual organizations have nondiscrimination policies that address this issue, but it is not the law of the land. I have been involved with the outplacement industry since the ’80s, and in my view terminations occur for various purposes.
On the whole, your article is weak and lacks insight. For example, outplacement services were not offered as a way for employers to assuage the guilt associated with letting people go. Outplacement didn’t begin until the ’80s and is now an entire industry.
Your article would have been more accurate if you mentioned that age discrimination against older techies is rampant and needs to be addressed. Maybe if the dotcom kids had some adults around, they would still be around too.
David J. Payne
Editor’s note: See “The High Price of Age Discrimination,” May 15, 2001.
Your article and recommendations about termination were very accurate. However, you left out a segment of terminations that is important?those that are politically motivated, consultant-motivated or “This has nothing to do with performance, the organization has just changed.” There are also bosses who will let you go when you aren’t willing to work 100 hours a week anymore.
GLT & Associates
I read with great interest your cover story on firing people. While there is a lot of useful information in it, I believe that it misses some nuances of the topic.
Not every group or organization is negatively affected by the firing of an employee. Some of the time, getting rid of an employee can boost the morale of a department or working group. If an employee has been unwilling to interact or communicate, then that employee becomes a source of negative tension, resentment and demoralization for the remainder of the group or organization.
Not dealing with poor performers is not doing your job as a manager. Firing underperformers, admittedly after going through the process CIO describes, can send a positive message that negative attitudes, unproductive behaviors and poor performance will not be condoned or tolerated.
Often, poor-performing employees are unwittingly passed on to the next department because of a manager’s reluctance or unwillingness to deal with the situation.
Going through the 10-step process you describe is hard work. It requires meetings, documentation, consultation with HR and so on. And often, once the employee knows that she is on probation, tensions arise and the work situation can become more uncomfortable. No one benefits?not the poor performer, not the group and not the organization.
Debra A. Sorge
Director of Marketing & Communications
Melrose Park, Pa.
I was pleased to see a straightforward article on termination. Terminating an employee, while never pleasant, is often a business necessity that needs to be approached in a systematic and fair way.
However, I was concerned with what I read in the sidebar “The Conversation.” Mr. Bhasin says that he delivers the termination decision by saying, “I think it’s best for the company if you resign.” It is neither best for the company or the employee. Forcing an employee to resign is inappropriate behavior from a fair employer. An employee who is being terminated should be told directly that he is being terminated. It should be clear that he is entitled to unemployment compensation consistent with individual state laws. If an employee is concerned about future work references, he should be assured that only the basic facts of employment (title, dates of employment and so on) will be provided to prospective employers.
Human Resources Manager
Simone Kaplan’s June 15, 2001, article “Leadership: Hard Times, Good Times” does an excellent job of advocating proactive actions for properly staffing an enterprise in hard and good times versus knee-jerk actions often resulting in layoffs. Unfortunately, every day there is news of more layoffs, indicating that companies and their managers are in the midst of knee-jerk reactions to the real economic slowdown. Managers are being asked to cut “X” percent from their groups, and more than likely are doing it in a vacuum. The CEO and remaining staff will often be victims of the tyranny of layoffs by a silo approach. CEOs and senior management must adopt a holistic view and make joint decisions based on shared priorities, not on applying the same percent to equalize the pain across the board.
Timothy S.K. Liu
Executive Vice President
I am the CIO for the Fairfax County government. Imagine my surprise when I read on Page 182 of your May 15, 2001, issue [“Private Lessons for the Public Sector”] that Fairfax County has “embarked on multimillion-dollar, long-term strategic plans to privatize and outsource most if not all of its IT functions.” That assertion is completely and utterly false.
Fairfax County has a centralized IT function and a central IT department headed by Wanda Gibson. There are currently 284 employees in the central IT department and approximately 100 decentralized IT positions within county departments.
Since 1995, Fairfax has blended in-house IT development and support with staff augmentation and project partnerships with private sector firms. Our sourcing decisions are made on a project-by-project basis as we plan and review our IT investments annually.
Our fiscal year 2002 IT plan can be viewed on our newly redesigned website at www.co.fairfax.va.us/gov/dit/itplan.htm. The website redesign project, incidentally, was done in-house by county staff. This included all focus groups, design, development and rollout activities. Staff augmentation was used to help with infrastructure and conversion of content to templates developed by our staff. Our commitment to proper sourcing, staff development, the opportunity to work with modern technologies and our county’s compensation program, have allowed us to attract and retain an outstanding IT staff.
Fairfax County is not completely outsourcing IT. The county is sourcing IT creatively in a way that benefits the county’s overall IT program.
Incidentally, our approach actually parallels the statements about centralization and sourcing that the editor in chief makes in her May 15 letter.
David J. Molchany
Fairfax County Government
Fairfax County, Va.