Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

A reader asks:

I know you've talked a lot about the kindest ways to fire someone. I was wondering what your opinion is on the time of day it's done.

Recently, one of my co-workers was let go. At the end of the workday, another manager ushered everyone else who was around (we're a small office) into a fake meeting so that the employee would be able to pack up his desk in peace. This is how I have seen several other firings happen, and I thought that it seemed fair.

However, several of my co-workers were upset about the way it was handled and said that it should have happened at the beginning of the day. I can see their side; maybe it's better to do it first thing in the morning and get it over with. However, I personally think that it could cause more commotion because everyone is arriving in the morning, saying hi, making coffee, etc., and the poor employee has to pack up and leave with everyone staring.

Green responds:

You'll find arguments for any day of the week and any time of day you can think of.

The argument for doing it at the start of the day is that it can feel like a slap in the face if the person has just put in a full day's work, not knowing that they're about to be fired.

The argument for doing it at the end of the day is that the person can pack up their things and leave in peace, without a lot of questions or awkward conversations with colleagues.

The argument for doing it in the middle of the day is that many people will be at lunch and comings and goings aren't unusual then.

And just to complete this list, we can throw in days of the week too: Some people argue that firings should be done on Friday, so that the person will have the whole weekend to process the news; this is actually thought to reduce the risk of workplace violence (such as an incident where the person angrily returns the following day). Other people argue for doing it on Monday, so that the person can start picking up the pieces right away, rather than having to wait through a weekend before being able to conduct various pieces of business (although I think that's less relevant now that you can do things like apply for unemployment online).

Everyone has their own views on this. But ultimately what's most important is whether the person was treated fairly and with dignity. If they were, it doesn't really matter what day of the week or time of day it happens. If they're not, there's no day or time that will make that better.

It sounds like your company was thoughtful about logistics around your co-worker's firing in order to preserve her dignity. That's what I'd focus on.

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

Published on: May 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.