See Ya! Saying Goodbye in the Workplace… It’s About How You Make Them Feel

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See Ya! Saying Goodbye in the Workplace… It’s About How You Make Them Feel

by Bill Catlette

4/4/23 • Memphis

(2-minute read)

Firing people is hard, but let’s not try to make it easy. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Reasonable, mature people understand that from time to time, company managements get blindsided by pandemics, misjudge the economic windage, future prospects, and/or their ability to perform in a given set of conditions. As a result, they find it necessary to trim their sails and terminate the services of a segment of their workforce, not because they want to, but because they have to in order to remain viable and competitive.

Having been on both sides of that equation and been told, with a five-month pregnant wife and Christmas in the near sights, “Today is your last day here” by a weasel who wouldn’t even look me in the face; and in other cases been the one required to calculate the bogey and deliver the same message (albeit in different fashion) to others, I can assure you of one thing, it’s personal, and it’s painful. If it isn’t, you don’t belong in the game. This is true whether the separation is “for cause” or purely economic reasons.

Organizations that attempt to take the easy way out by de-personalizing this process err in two respects:

1. They send the entirely wrong message to their management team, suggesting that this is no big deal… no more consequential perhaps than selling off some old inventory.

2. Assuming that they cared in the first place, the people who find themselves being coldly, mechanically executed will never, ever forget, nor forgive how you made them feel. Sadly, this is where some HR professionals earn the “Human Remains” moniker.

A good friend reiterated for me how, when his wife got sacked from a mid-management level job at a large company, she received a 6:30AM call from a complete stranger she’d never heard of informing her that she needn’t report to work that day (or any other day), and verifying her home address so they could send her belongings to her.

And, for the cherry on top, I suppose it’s understandable why many will return the favor by telling others, lots of others, how you’ve treated them. (And we wonder where and how our employer brand, our reputation gets sullied.)

I read with interest yesterday morning a WSJ piece ( about how McDonalds’ headquarters is closed for the week while they sort out who stays and who doesn’t need to come back at the end of the week. My hope is that they’ll at least do it the right way rather than have the lottery ticket losers find out when their logon ID no longer works on Thursday.


The mantra of business is no longer that the big eat the small; rather, that the fast eat the slow. Motivated people move faster. We wrote the book(s) on the economic power of a motivated workforce, and how leaders can productively harness the human spirit. We’re happy to bring that message to your leadership team via keynote speech, seminar, 1:1 coaching, or in print. That’s all we do.

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