I responded to a press inquiry this week about whether firing people by e-mail is a good practice. After picking up my jaw, I responded with the following:
Any executive who fires employees by e-mail should be fired from the closest available window. It is management by cowardice, pure and simple.
There are three reasons why firing by e-mail is a bad idea:
- It is inhumane. Anyone losing their job, no matter how deserving, should be shown the respect and basic decency of it being done in person by someone in authority. (This is reason enough not to fire by e-mail.)
- It creates risk. E-mails can easily be sent to the wrong people or at the wrong time. Either error can spur employee behavior and actions that will be harmful to the company. It is rare for someone to be terminated too soon or mistakenly when done in person.
- It is too easy for the firer. Firing should be a last resort outside of extreme cases. Sending an e-mail allows the executive to terminate someone in the abstract rather than facing them personally. You are more likely to make the right decision if you are willing to deliver the message to their face.
Terminating employees is something every manager has to do as part of their duties. When termination is warranted, have the guts to do it in person. It is the right thing to do as a human being and as a good manager.