True Tales: Fired by E-mail

fired-by-emailBreaking up has always been hard to do. It's emotional and the whole thing can be awkward. (Umm, so you're wearing my sweatshirt -- do you mind if I get that back?) Which is why, since the dawn of the Internet, people have been dumping each other via e-mail. Although it's considered to be the most impersonal and cowardly way to initiate a breakup, it is also, undeniably, the easiest.

Unfortunately, what was once a tactic reserved for spineless exes, has become more commonplace at work, as employers are increasingly delivering the pink slip via e-mail. "It's yet another example of how people use their computer screen to avoid confrontation," says Shannon*, an independent entertainment publicist who was fired by e-mail last month. Shannon was preparing for the album launch of her client, a recording artist, when she received an out-of-the-blue e-mail stating that the client could no longer afford her services. "He just suddenly dumped me over e-mail," she says. "I still get calls from journalists as his album is coming out soon. It's a bit awkward."

While Shannon says she was both surprised and disappointed in her client's unprofessional actions, she still tried to take the high road. "[I called] him at the end of my term to say what a pleasure it was working with him and wished him the best. He was very appreciative and a bit taken aback. I don't leave on unprofessional terms no matter how unprofessional the client may be. It's my way of passing on a lesson," she says.

Kerry Patterson, co-author of The New York Times best-seller 'Crucial Conversations,' says, "It's hard to imagine a situation wherein firing someone by e-mail is the sensitive and effective way to let someone go. Should it actually happen I would imagine that the person using the medium did so out of convenience. It's faster, it's documented, and it avoids a face-to-face discussion which could be awkward or even threatening under certain circumstances. But let me go on record here: It also shows no concern and provides no opportunity for an open discussion. It's hard to imagine that you'd ever treat a person you know and care about in such a cold fashion."

Often, such an abrupt and one-sided method of being let go can leave an employee with a lot of questions and emotions about the termination, and Patterson suggests doing the following should you ever find yourself in this situation:

  • If you are looking for more information on the reason for the firing, "asking for an open discussion certainly wouldn't be inappropriate," she says. "First, ask to talk with your boss in person. Explain that you'd like to learn more about what led to your termination. If your boss is unwilling to hold the conversation, request a discussion with the HR manager. It's actually their job to hold exit interviews."
  • Should you be granted a conversation with either, "ask for feedback about what led to your termination," Patterson advises. "If you are being let go for cause (rather than being laid off because of a downturn in business), it's particularly important to learn exactly what you did and didn't do." Should you be met with vague criticism that you're unreliable or you're hard to work with, Patterson suggests: "Ask for the last time you did something that led them to feel that way -- what you did, said, etc. Stick with it until you learn about the actions which led to your termination."
  • Although you may be angry with the termination method, "telling the initiator that he or she is a coward doesn't work. It might make you feel good for a short while, but it is very unlikely to yield the result you want. Using insulting labels also lowers you to the same emotional, unprofessional level of the person who sent the termination e-mail in the first place, and you don't want to go there," Patterson says.
  • At the end of your conversation, thank your employer for not only taking the time, but for providing you with information that can assist you in your future career, Patterson says. Then "explain that others can use similar detailed feedback -- along with the chance to ask questions and seek details... which is why e-mail isn't sufficient means of handling the termination," she says.

Overall, Patterson says, if you think that your termination requires a conversation beyond e-mail, make sure that you stick to a few guidelines. "Seek detailed information that you can use to help you in your career, stay in charge of your emotions, act professionally, and never ever burn a bridge -- even if the person letting you go is already holding a torch," she says.

* Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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suealiaim

act like you didn't get it and just keep working...if you clock hours they have to pay you...without some sort of proof its their word against yours...

September 01 2010 at 7:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MIKE

ONCE UPON A TIME MANY YEARS AGO THERE WAS A GUY & A GAL MOST OF US IN THE DEPARTMENT COULD NOT STAND * YOU KNOW THE KIND ALWAYS WITH THE ATTITUDE THAT THEY WERE BETTER THAN US * SO MOST OF US STOPPED OUT FOR DRINKS AFTER WORK & PUT OUR HEADS TOGETHER TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WE COULD DO TO GET RID OF THEM *

ONE OPTION WAS TO GET THEM PROMOTED BUT THAT WAS DISCOUNTED RIGHT AWAY AS ONE OF US MIGHT HAVE TO WORK FOR THEM SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE * THE OTHER OPTION WAS TO GET THEM FIRED * WE SENT THEM A TELEGRAM & FIRED THEM IN THE CEO'S NAME & WE SENT THE BILL TO OUR COMPANY ********* WE NEVER SAW THEM AGAIN ***
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WE ALSO HAD A PERSON WORKING FOR US THAT EACH DAY EITHER STOLE OUR LUNCHES OR OPENED THEM UP & TOOK A BITE OUT OF EVERYTHING IN THE LUNCH BAG * WE HAD ABOUT 50 PEOPLE IN THE OFFICE *** WE COMPLAINED TO MANAGEMENT ABOUT IT TO NO AVAIL ** SO WE HAD TO TAKE ACTION * EACH OF US FIXED OUR LUNCH AS USUAL BUT ON THE SANDWICH MIXED WITH JUST A LITTLE BIT OF THE MAYO FOR COLOR WE PUT IMMERSIBAL OIL IN IT * RIGHT ABOUT THE SCHEDULED LUNCH TIME WE SPOTED ONE GIRL GET UP & RUN TO THE BATHROOM ABOUT 5 TIMES WHEN SHE CAME OUT WE CORNERED HER & TOLD HER WHAT WE HAD DONE & THAT SHE WOULD HAVE THE SHITS FOR ABOUT 3 DAYS & IF OUR LUNCHES WERE EVER MESSED WITH AGAIN THIS WOULD BE NOTHING COMPARED TO WHAT WE WOULD DO TO HER ********************************
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September 01 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jerry

If the following doesn't take the cake, I don't know what does. A friend of mine found out she was being let go in a blanket email announcing that a new person was taking over her job on a certain date. She never even got a notice of termination, just an email informing her to stop reporting for work on the date that the new person was to assume her position. Incidentally, the person who replaced her was a personal friend of the boss.

September 01 2010 at 5:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kay

Pardon my terrible spelling-The best way to terminate an employee is to get them to sign for the informational/memo/communication (as proof they received it) hand them the written copy of their termination with the reason why in writing. get them out the door before reading it. this gives all parties the proof they need for further procceses and curcumvents (sp?) most legal issues. getting them out the door before reading is the tricky part. it's best to do so at the end of shift or work day so as to save them and you mass time and other resources. it also reduces the speculation around the office if other workers saw so and so leaving at the same time as usual. Remember most employers blow the confidential aspects of these matters and it's usually there the law suits are won in the smaller ways. the best employeer knows that by giving employee's unemployment benifits up front instead of fighting it, will save a great deal of money down the road. be proffesional, be conciderate, be civil and save your self from a later hell. don't talk to future employers about the paticulars ether as this is another winnable suite. If you sabotage there chances at reemployment your liabel and can be sued for that as well. (you've endangered their livelyhood /survivial.)There are better and worse ways to term an employee. the best way works for everyone's benifit with out rancor or buhaukaey

September 01 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kay's comment
suealiaim

there is NO WAY you would get me to sign something without reading it...and i hope that goes for everyone but YOU...

September 01 2010 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark

The Subcontractor's office I work for LOVES firing by email. About 4 months ago there were a total of 12 people fired ALL by email. My coworker had to turn to me and ask "Did you get one of these too? I'm not sure what's going on." We had a field tech who was STILL IN THE FIELD WORKING JOBS for these spineless cowards because he doesn't have time to check work email let alone his personal email. There was a time where the worse you could do was fire someone at the end of the day. Now days they fire you and don't even have the stones to tell you. All we are anymore is a number in the system and a paycheck (since they are nice enough to take what the Contractor pays us and then decide how much of the money we earned we get to keep.)

September 01 2010 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
M.Young

It stinks and is totally unacceptable and unprofessional. But at least she didn't have her fiancé break up with her via email...I did and it was one of the most painful things ever to have happen to me. However, it was the BEST thing too because he married a year or so afterward and his wife seems to have been pregnant ever since. Guess he wanted the barefoot and pregnant kind of woman. There is nothing wrong with being a stay at home mother (I had one and think they are wonderful) but that was definitely not me.

September 01 2010 at 4:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alan

Besides being insensitive, it isn't very smart. What's to prevent the recipient from forwarding it to the entire company showing them how things may happen to them?

September 01 2010 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
emacsdaddy

I was once fired over the phone, while I was at my house, on a day off. And I thought THAT was tacky. Firing by e-mail is worse, although both options show a lack of compassion or thought. My one redeemer is that the one that fired me is no longer at that company, either.

September 01 2010 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to emacsdaddy's comment
kimberlymsutton

It could have been worse. You could have driven an hour and a half to work only to be fired when you got there... it happened to my husband.

September 01 2010 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
L.Borja

E-mail firings are never acceptable. The owner of a company should never allow this. The employee was not hired via e-mail so do the right thing you spineless a-holes look your employee in the eye and tell them why they are fired. HR is going to have to deal with them after the firing anyway.

September 01 2010 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to L.Borja's comment
Mary Anne

Have you been fired? Are you looking for a job? I make $30K working 4 hrs a day. Currently, I work for a large corporation and I set my own hours. You just have to know where to find these jobs. BestTopJobs has a FREE list of hundreds of real work at home jobs offered by well known companies. These jobs do NOT cost you money. These are employment positions. This is not a scam only help for those looking for work. Everyone really needs to think outside the box when it comes to finding employment. What are you doing right now? You are on the internet. Where do you shop? Where do you book trips? The internet has opened up so many REAL jobs that can be worked from home. You will have to add the ending to the link because I can't post full links. Hope this helps!

September 01 2010 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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