20 February 2013: HR Manager Confessions #3

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13th February 2013
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20th February 2013

20 February 2013: HR Manager Confessions #3

Termination Tangle: Two for One –

An Affair of the Heart

I have mentioned that for an HR Manager terminating employees is an unfortunate but necessary part of the job, and once you get used to it, the negotiations can even be an enjoyable challenge.

The most interesting termination I ever did was in France. I had to terminate an underperforming French employee. I entered the negotiations with a “payoff” in mind, started the discussions with an offer somewhat below to give myself room for some concessions; and after half an hour the deal was done – more or less at the original figure I had started out with and well below my “budget”. I was a bit put out and felt somewhat guilty. I felt like a taxi driver who has been over-tipped.

I took the employee for a coffee in a neighbouring café and he then asked me for a favour. I said OK –imagining that now he would ask me to give him the laptop he had been using, the printer maybe, his company car, 12 months of health insurance – something like that.

Instead he said that he had a girlfriend in XXXXX in central France. (He was a married man.) And now it would be difficult as he had no business reason to visit XXXXX. And anyway he was a bit fed up with the relationship. And… he wondered if I would call her to tell her that he had been fired and that therefore the relationship was over, logistically impossible…

I was astounded and said it was out of the question, not part of my job to meddle in employees’ private business etc… But he insisted saying (in French) the equivalent of “I’m frightened of her reaction… and you are good at talking to people…I’m asking for this as a friend not as part of your job.”  He was losing his company mobile phone as part of the termination and so she wouldn’t be able to get hold of him too easily. His home number was ex-directory.

So a day or two later I took a deep breath, called her, and told her the bad news. She spent about 40 minutough phone calltes abusing me in rapid and quite imaginative French, saying how heartless I was to be firing a man of his age, saying at various times what a pathetic individual/ absolute swine/ coward he was, how he was nevertheless wonderful and she still loved him/ but also how she was a bit bored with things too/ threatened reprisals, threatened to find the chap’s wife and tell her all about it. She asked would I pay for a trip for her to come to our office to see him/ me to (presumably) raise a hue and cry there…

Although she couldn’t easily contact him she had my office number of course and called me several times over the next few weeks, partly to generally abuse me again but also to find out how much we had paid him as a termination indemnity! Eventually the storm subsided and the frequency of calls tailed off!

John Tinsley

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