March 26, 2013

Sam Just Glazed A Large, Low-E Unit Backwards. Now What?

By Paul Bieber

That’s it, you’ve had it.  You just came back from the job site and you’re fuming.  You walk up to Sam, start yelling, and fire him on the spot.  He storms out.  Unfortunately he has $2,000 worth of your tools in his truck, three sets of plans you are bidding, and your cell phone, gas credit card and the keys to the shop.  You sure did step in a pile and it is now all over your shoe.  OOPS.

Is there a better way to fire someone than starting a shouting match, where you can only lose?  Yes.  First step: count to ten, then count to twenty, and if you are still not calm, count to one hundred and forty-three.  Shouting does no good, even if it does, just for a moment, feel good.  All that happens is you lose the respect of other employees within hearing range.

You have decsded that Sam has to look for a new career.  When you get back to the shop discuss this with another manager or leader within the company.  Unless you are a two-man firm, this should be a mandatory part of anyone being fired.  If the second person agrees with you, you move forward one step.  If there is no agreement, then you have to carefully lay out your reason for firing Sam until there is agreement.  If this is Sam’s first mistake, maybe you are over reacting just a touch.  If it’s not a first-timer, you should have no problem convincing the other manager of your position.

Ask Sam to come into your office; have another person with you to take notes.  Do not record the conversation.  Tell Sam you are disappointed and upset with his work.  Explain that you want to think about his future with your company, telling him to go home and come back tomorrow morning when you can have a more thoughful discussion.  If Sam starts to push your buttons with, “What do you mean I did the job wrong?” Or, “You’re just out to get me!” then suspend him and tell him to come back in two days when he has calmed down.  If he storms out of the office, trailing obscenities, have someone escort him to his car.

The next day, or in two days, you will have a calmer meeting, hopefully.  Again, have a second person with you to take notes, but not get involved in the conversation.  Don’t sugar-coat this meeting.  Explain that Sam is no longer to work with you, and he is done as of now.  If it is your policy to ask for two-weeks notice from your employees, then you should give Sam two weeks as well.  He might ask for more, stay firm that the answer is no.  Don’t get into a debate with Sam on whether he should stay with you, or get more money.  Your decision is final.  This meeting should not take longer than ten minutes.  Anything you say in a debate will come back to bite you if Sam does contest his firing to an outside agency.  Your state may have a policy that all wages have to be paid at the moment of termination, or you may be able to pay on the next regularly scheduled payday.  This is something you should know for your state.  Before you give Sam his final check, make it conditional on returning his tools and other company-owned materials.

You should also have his sick-time and vacation time due figured out, so you can close this chapter effectively.   Your employee reviews of Sam should have some mention of his weakness in glazing.  If he had good reviews all along, and now you want to fire him for making a mistake, it may be interpreted that you have another motive…such as Sam is getting too old, or maybe you don’t like people named Sam.  What you don’t have an employee review system?  Shame on you for missing one of the best tools to help your company.  We’ll talk more about that in the weeks to come.