It’s never fun when someone has to be let go. Usually, it’s a slow trickle of disappointments and oversights that gradually make someone look like they’re more trouble than they’re worth.
But these bosses of Quora are here to talk about the times when someone forced them into making a snap decision.
He was a talented salesman with one weakness: he was incredibly, incredibly lazy.
One Monday morning, I gave him a pep talk. I praised his value to the company and told him I wanted to keep him around. I warned him, in the kindest way possible, that his lackadaisical approach to work was putting him in a dangerous spot.
He thanked me profusely for my concern and told me that yes, he was ready to change his life. He was excited and invigorated.
The next day, he didnt show up for work. I called his house and got his voicemail. The outgoing message cheerfully informed me that he had decided to go fishing, and he would see us all in a week.
He was the first and only employee Ive fired over the phone. Ive thought of him as “Gone Fishin [X]” ever since.
I once had to fire my entire staff. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
This was now over 20 years ago. I worked for a finance company as a regional sales manager, operating out of our Chicago branch office.
My boss, the regional operations manager, was terminated on a Friday afternoon, due to not catching a very large fraud committed by one of our customers. I was offered the job within an hour, and after a little deliberation, decided to take the position.
The staff were generally happy in their jobs, a little upset due to the circumstances surrounding my boss termination, but supposedly okay. I got along well with the staff, though the fact that someone from sales was being promoted to management raised a few eyebrows.
So, I was told to go to the corporate HQ In Kansas City on Monday morning, fill out some paperwork, and spend a few days learning what was expected of me in my new position. It was assumed that everything would function as normal.
Yeah, that didnt happen. (continued…)
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So, I get off the plane at 7:30, arrive at the corporate office at 8:30, and finish up in HR by 9:00. Im 15 minutes into a meeting with my new boss when we are interrupted by an “urgent” phone call for me. The customer service manager called to announce that my staff were not happy. All of them. He said that if I wasnt back in the office that afternoon, that everyone would walk out.
Wow. It was my first day on the job. I hadnt even learned my formal duties. I felt 100% betrayed by these people I had worked alongside for a couple of years.
So, I hung up the phone, saying nothing, with my face turning red and steam coming out of my ears. I told the corporate guys what was going on. They told me, “handle it as you see fit.” We will bring you up to speed in a few days.
I taxi back to the airport, and get on the first flight back to Chicago.
I walk into the office around 2:00, and everyone is acting like there is nothing wrong. I find the ringleader, and he says, “There are problems you need to fix NOW!”
“Okay,” I said. I called everyone to the conference room (about 30 staff). Then I turned to the ringleader and asked, “What was so urgent that it could not wait two more days?”
He went through a list of demands as I listened quietly.
When he was finished, I said, “I have heard what you are saying, and agree with most of the list. Do you all agree?” I polled everyone on the staff, and all but two hands went up.
“I understand there are some legitimate grievances. However, you didnt even give me a chance to solve the problems. These demands were made within 30 minutes of my taking the position. This means that I cannot rely on any of you. You are all fired.”
I pick up the phone and called building security.
They were watched as they cleared their desks one by one and were escorted off the property. I called our Louisville office, and transferred the calls there for a week until I could hire new staff (except the two who stayed out of it… I promoted both of them).
I owned a flying school and I had a receptionist who was good with the customers.
One day I got a phone call at about 4pm from a student asking why we had closed down early. I assured him we hadn’t as we had people flying until 7 that night. He told me he was standing outside and the doors were locked. (continued…)
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When I came in next day I checked the CCTV and sure enough she had locked up at 3:30 while people were still flying. She returned just before 5:30. I checked the day before and the same thing had happened. I decided to wait until the end of the month to see how many hours she claimed.
Sure enough she had claimed her full hours on her payslip. So I called her into my office to explain herself. She claimed to have “forgotten” to take it off her hours worked.
I studied the CCTV for previous 30 days and found that she had done it for almost 50% of her shifts! Despite this I didn’t want to lose her, the students loved her.
I asked her for her reasons and she said that she had been visiting her boyfriend and having lunch together. He was an instructor pilot for me but he had never left mid shift. I explained why it was wrong to leave the premises but she just shrugged her shoulders.
Truth be told I couldn’t afford to lose her. I decided to let her go with a final warning.
She replied, “Are you really doing this?” “I am,” I said. Then she erupted!
Then she pulled out an envelope and handed it to me saying, “Here is my 30 days notice. Since you owe me holidays, I will be taking them so I don’t have to work with you anymore.”
I just calmly said, “I dont need notice cause I’m letting you go for misconduct.”
A week later I received a letter asking for a reference as she was applying for a new job! The nerve.
George was a short guy. He stood about 45 tall. He was a waiter at a restaurant I was managing.
George was hysterically funny, but he had a habit of saying outrageous things.
He had been given several warnings about comments he made in front of customers that I simply could not allow. Unfortunately, on this day, the regional manager was there and I couldnt cover for him.
George was standing by the counter. Customers were all sitting at the counter talking. One of the female servers was doing her clean up before the end of her shift.
She was not the brightest of people, but she was good at her job. She just wasnt always focused on what she was doing. Unwittingly, she presented George with a temptation that he couldnt resist. (continued…)
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She had squatted down to get a pan of dirty dishes to carry back to the kitchen, and started staring off into space. The problem was, she chose to stare off to the right of her… where George was standing.
Because of her squatting down, and his height, she was actually staring at his crotch. She had no clue; she was off in her own world.
George happened to noticed the direction of her gaze.
In a very loud voice he said: “Hey Cassie! While youre down there… could you do a friend a favor?!?” Then he winked at her.
The men at the counter were laughing so hard they were crying.
Cassie, bless her heart, had no idea what he was saying at first. Then it hit her and she turned beet red.
George was doubled over laughing. I had just come from the kitchen as he had said this. I looked at him and said, “Awww dang it George!”
He said, “I know Joyce. Its OK. But I just couldnt help it. I HAD to say it!”
I truly hated to see him go.
As a triage nurse in an Emergency Room, some duties are mundane but necessary. One rule was that if a pregnant woman came in, the nurse had to ask how far along they were.
Twenty weeks is the magic number. At that point, the baby has a realistic chance of surviving if delivered. This meant the nurse had to push the patient by wheelchair to Labor and Delivery on the other side of the building.
One day, I got a call from the L&D Director. “We have a patient who says she was told rudely by the ER staff that she was in the wrong place and needed to drive around to the front entrance,” she said.
This was a huge hospital that took up two city blocks. Driving around required 2 red lights and avoiding a one way street.
“I’ll have to speak to the staff,” I told her, “They know what theyre supposed to do.”
“This girl was 32 weeks and complained of her water breaking,” she continued. “Keith, the baby was dead.” (continued…)
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I was completely shocked and disgusted.
I called the charge nurse and asked who had been on duty. Judy. Judy was an outspoken nurse who enjoyed sharing her opinion that most of the patients in the ER did not even have an emergency. I went to get her.
“Can you come with me?” I asked.
She followed me out into the hallway, and as we walked to my office I asked her, “Did you send a 32-week pregnant patient around to the front?”
“Is that what this is about?” she started, “We are busy and I don’t have time to push people all over the hospital.”
“The baby was dead,” I said.
“That baby was dead before she got here,” she argued.
Without hesitation I said, “Collect all your stuff and go home. Come by my office before you leave,” I said.
While she collected her things, I called Human Resources and made sure I had grounds to terminate. The HR representative agreed to come witness the termination.
“I don’t care what you say,” Judy started as she entered the room. “That baby was already dead.”
“Judy, because of your refusal to follow proper protocol and continued insistence that you have done nothing wrong, you are being terminated. Effective immediately.” Her mouth fell open, and she began to cry.
Thats the moment, I think, she finally realized the seriousness of her actions. Just despicable.
I had a policy in my company of zero harassment. I went to lunch and came back in a few moments and found a salesperson massaging the receptionists shoulders. I asked her if she had requested this. She said no. I had previously warned him. I told him to pack up and assigned someone to make sure that he did.
By the way, my receptionists previous summer job was as an intern with LA prosecutors office. Her father was the one who tried the glove on OJ. I still would have fired him even if it had been a different receptionist.
I ran an extremely racially diverse and gender equal company. Im proud of that.
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I had a guy who cut himself while operating a circular power saw while wearing headphones and screwing around. Drove him to the hospital to get himself stitched up. And then I fired him.
I was a general labor crew chief one time and this guy sat down in the middle of the construction site – not during break – took his shoes and socks off, lit a smoke, and leaned back as if his day was done. It was 10 in the morning.
I spotted the guy, work going on all around him, and told him he needed to get his stuff on and get back to work. He cussed me out, and I fired him on the spot.
When he tried to say I couldn’t do that, I told him he was in violation of umpteen safety codes and refused to reverse his course of action and invited him to go find himself a lawyer that would argue his right to violate those codes. He left, work continued, everyone got paid.
Yes, I have had to fire someone. It was not easy as she was in tears and begging me to reconsider.
The thing is she was responsible for timekeeping. There were records of everyone who went beyond the grace period, and at some point they got memos for habitual tardiness.
What I didn’t know was that she had also been coming in late, but she opted to change her login times (complete with erasures) so that she wouldn’t get the memo. When somebody complained, I asked her about it and she couldn’t deny it.
She said she was sorry but she was afraid of getting the memo, and that she needed the job. I told her that while I am nice and generally have a lot of leeway on many things, I do not tolerate falsification of records. What’s worse is that she was in a position of trust, and once she loses my trust, I can no longer work with her.