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Did the Employee You Fired See it Coming?

We fired an employee a few weeks ago. She never saw it coming.

She was truly surprised that she got the axe.

I’ve noticed that the people we fire rarely see it coming. I’ve always thought they were kind of clueless.

Recently, however, I recognized that their surprise is not evidence of their cluelessness.

Their surprise is evidence of our incompetence as managers. We are dropping the ball. They shouldn’t be surprised. If we were doing our job as managers, they’d see it coming. They see it coming really clearly and in vivid colors!

It’s our job to show them what we expect, to show them the gap between our expectations and their performance, and to show them how to fill the gap. If we’re explaining, teaching, coaching, and providing feedback, they’ll be very familiar  with their deficiencies. They’ll know whether they’re failing to meet expectations, and they’ll know what to do to correct the situation.

We’re not giving sufficient feedback when employees are surprised by their own termination.

I’m not suggesting that every employee can do the job. I’m not suggesting that it’s our responsibility to fill the gap for them.

I am, however, suggesting that they should know exactly what they were supposed to do, and they should know they aren’t doing it.

Sometimes it’s our fault and not theirs.

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Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.