Most managers, I would say, don't enjoy firing people. In fact, for some it can be a heart-wrenching experience. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances can make things even worse. That was the case with a co-manager of mine once. He was the gentlest of people and if this firing could have been avoided he would have found a way. The employee in question, let's call him Bart, was a major non-performer who just couldn't do the job. It came from higher up that he had to be let go. After all the HR hoops had been jumped through and all the documentation was in order, it fell upon my friend to tell the guy he was through.
This was his first firing so he spent a day working through what he was going to say and trying to anticipate any repercussions that might come from the meeting with Bart. The moment finally came and though it was uncomfortable, Bart ultimately became aware that he was not cut out for his job. He was sad but resigned and began to pack his belongings.
Now in a seemingly unrelated incident, one of the women in the office came in from lunch and said she saw a suspicious looking older man in a paneled van cruising around the parking lot. He would park for a minute or two at the entrance to the building then cruise around a bit and come back. She said she thought he was scoping the women as they came in and out of the building. This woman got herself all worked up and called the police to come by and check this out.
The police came. When they approached the man, he told them that he was just waiting for his son, who had just been fired, to come down with his stuff so he could drive him home. At that moment, Bart came out the door with his stuff only to see the police talking to his father. Now that's what you call a bad day.
Of course, my friend the manager could not have anticipated this: You fire someone and simultaneously his dad almost gets arrested for stalking. So my sensitive manager friend, in his first agonizing firing, got even more depressed. Ultimately, Bart went on to a position elsewhere for which he was more suited, and my manager friend never forgot his first experience with an employee termination.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.