Ramifications of “You’re Fired”

I’ll start with the obvious: anyone can be fired. As long as someone works for someone else, they can be fired and, in many states, with or without reason. (If someone is self employed, they can be fired by clients, but that is a different situation.) Some people seem to think, so what if I’m fired. There are ramifications to being fired. A recent, now former, employee may have come to that realization when he asked if Melissa and I would provide a job reference for him. Even though I like the guy, I know that if someone calls me about him they are likely to ask the common background check question, “Is he eligible for rehire?” In today’s world, that has become the “safe” question to ask in background check situations. I know I’ve asked it and other, similar, questions, but sometimes all that will be answered is “yes” or “no” to that question. I would have thought it was obvious that using as a reference a former boss who fired someone is likely not good idea. But, we have had people list us as references without asking – even by those fired for such things as on the job drug use! Being fired is, as I’ve written recently, understandably traumatic. Sometimes one can control the situation, for example, some employees who we’ve fired in past years for insubordinate, defiant behaviors. Sometimes, one can’t control the situation if, for example, they are not up to the job. But, on balance, being fired for whatever reason is a negative on a job chronology. As a result, it is sometimes better to come to a mutually agreeable decision to resign. The lure of “unemployment compensation” is strong for some people, however, they only get such compensation under certain conditions. Those who are fired for violating company policies (e.g., insubordination), are not likely to be granted unemployment compensation, therefore, the bad actions that drove the firing are not worth the effort. Being fired instead of doing illegal, unethical, or immoral things for your company is a different story – I’ve been there. There were long lasting ramifications for being ethical (https://magnusinsights.com/2016/02/being-ethical-can-be-expensive/). News stories about whistle blowers are fairly common. That’s not what I’m addressing in this post, however. My point is that getting fired is not something anyone wants to happen and if it seems things are coming to that, a level headed, mature discussion may reduce the harm of a termination decision. Think before you burn a bridge!

This topic has been on David’s list of things to write about for many years, however, recent events evidently inspired him to write about it.  During the almost 30 years Magnus has been in business, David has always performed the human resources functions in our company, including hiring, training, disciplining, and firing employees.  More people have been fired or have quit than have been successful, long term employees at Magnus, but the people who have been successful share the quality of excellence.  In the type of work David and I do on behalf of our clients, being “good enough” or average just doesn’t cut it. We have fired employees for various reasons, including insubordination, incompetence, substance abuse, and more, and in every instance, we breathe a sigh of relief when the toxic employee is finally out of our lives.  In the latest incident of firing someone for incompetence, it was shocking to David and me that our former employee would even consider using either of us as a reference for future employment purposes.  I have often been asked to serve as a reference for graduate or law school applications, military security clearance, and employment, however, I am willing to provide a reference only if it will benefit the person who asked me.  I would never consider writing a reference for a current or former employee who was fired, as doing so would certainly not be in the person’s best interests.  When I was in a position to ask former employers or professors for a reference, I always asked if they would be willing to provide a good recommendation, a positive reference, or other information that would help my chances of obtaining a job.  It is something to consider as to whether a reference, when provided, will be positive or negative.  But, in my opinion, when someone is fired, it is better to leave a gap on one’s resumé or vita than to list the employer who did the firing, opening the door for a background check that will reveal negative information.  Be careful what you ask for!


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