Sometimes, the best thing for your business is to fire someone. Sometimes the worst thing for your business is to fire someone.
I got an email from Kelli, who worked for a small startup. The boss was somewhat volatile and erratic. His business partners had even hired a counselor to try to smooth the relationships over between this guy and the other employees. Kelli often felt undermined and under appreciated by this guy, but stuck it out because the money was good and she enjoyed the work, which she was good at.
Until, one day, her boss threw a temper tantrum directed at her. Kelli gave her two weeks notice on the spot, with full plans to transition all her work. The boss? Continued his temper tantrum into the next day and said she couldn't quit, because he was firing her. Right now. As in, hand me your badge and your keys and get out of the office immediately.
Kelli did, and went and found an awesome new job. The business? Well, they email her constantly. "Can you make these changes to the website?" or "What's the password to this system?" and "Could you give me some advice on this project?" After doing a few of these things, I advised Kelli to stop it, and if they had any more questions that she wanted to answer, she should do it for a high consulting fee.
Her (former) boss, on the other hand, wins a Bad Boss of the Week honorable mention, but his partners win the actual award. Why? Because while the direct supervisor was a horrible person, and an even worse manager, his bad behavior was predictable. Everyone knew he was awful. For goodness' sake, they hired a counselor to come in and help him learn to deal with people.
Here's the thing. When you start a company with friends, or even with random people that you met on Craigslist, you, obviously, can feel a loyalty to them. Loyalty is a great thing, but when your friend, who may even have awesome technical or creative or whatever skills, is so bad with people that he throws temper tantrums and then fires someone who had already resigned, just so he could "win," you're destroying your own business.
After all, Kelli would have been happy to work out the two weeks and give all the passwords to the proper people, and fix whatever small problems they still had, and anything else that was needed. Instead, Mr. Ego kicked her out the door before she could transition anything.
He isn't the only boss that pulls stunts like this. Yes, sometimes when a key employee is headed to a competitor, you don't want that person to stick around for your next strategy meeting. However, in most cases, you should not fire someone who has just resigned. You can be hurt, you can be offended, you can even go home and cry into your pillow, but if you fire that person, you may end up crawling back when you realize that that employee actually needed to transition some knowledge.
If you are a C Level person, it's your responsibility to ensure that your colleagues at the C level (and really, all levels) are not horrible jerks. Kelli's boss should have been fired years earlier, but for whatever reason, his business partners kept him on. Even if you, yourself, are a nice person, you are a very, very, very bad boss if you allow other people in your company to behave like this.
And if I can't appeal to your sense of decency, let me appeal to your bottom line. Turnover costs a fortune. Lost passwords, dropped clients, and unfinished projects also cost a fortune. And this is what you get with a mean, volatile manager. Yes, I know Steve Jobs was supposedly a jerk and look at Apple! You are not Apple and Kelli's boss was not Steve Jobs. So, stop allowing this behavior to continue at your company.
Do you have a Bad Boss story? Or have you been a Bad Boss? Email me at EvilHRLady@gmail.com