Fired by Phone? I Thought We Were Closer Than That

Posted by The Editors on September 15, 2011
Fired by Phone? I Thought We Were Closer Than That

Two and a half years ago, my friend was laid off from her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep at a Fortune 100 company. The day before the lay-off, she got a vague email with a time and a conference call dial-in. She called in at the required time and waited silently. Within two minutes of the phone call starting, she was laid off from her position—along with about 400 other people on the call.

Besides being stunned, she was enraged. She’d dedicated two years of her life to working for this company, and HR had the gall to axe her via phone call—which had a fixed mute setting for all participants.

When I was reading all the hype this week about the firing of Yahoo’s CEO, Carol Bartz, I couldn’t help but think back to my friend’s dismissal. Like my friend, Bartz was let go via phone call from a board member. Although my friend didn’t go on a campaign criticizing her former board members like Bartz is doing, you can’t help but empathize with someone who was let go in such an impersonal and cowardly way. Plain and simple, whether you’re letting go (or firing) anyone from senior level management down to an intern, it’s in really bad form to dismiss that person over the phone.

We all know you should never break up with someone via phone call: it’s disrespectful of the relationship, and doesn’t honor “what you had together.” Shouldn’t this sentiment extend to the professional world?

In Yahoo’s case, experts are saying the phone firing of Bartz may hurt Yahoo’s recruitment efforts. According to an anonymous Yahoo source in The Wall Street Journal, “It sends the signal to any prospective candidates that we (directors) don't know what we are doing.” And like I said, it also shows a lack of disregard and mutual respect for the person you are firing.

Do you have any lay-off horror stories? What to do you think of letting someone go via phone call?

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