Workers were fired by robocall

Commentary

Firing someone is one of the most difficult tasks a manager has to face. When you have to fire a lot of people, it's not only emotionally difficult for the manager, but also a potential logistical nightmare. Hoping to, for instance, keep rumors from flying around, employers prefer not let a great deal of time elapse between when the first and last person is notified of the job loss.

Ford Motor (F) recently had to dismiss about 100 workers at a Chicago assembly plant, which is a pretty good sized group. But rather than deal with scheduling or having managers go through the difficult task of sitting down with each individual, they used the telephone. The phone isn't the preferable way to terminate someone, but sometimes it's necessary.

Yet Ford went one step further and used robocalls to notify people that they were losing their jobs. That's right. Ford terminated nearly 100 people via a recording -- on Halloween.

This did not go over well. Dozens of workers reportedly either missed the call or didn't believe it. After all, this was Halloween -- could it be some kind of ill-judged prank? -- and who in their right mind fires people by robocall? As a result, fired employees duly showed up for work the next day only to discover that their badges didn't work and that they really had been let go.

It should be needless to say that it can be extremely traumatic to lose a job. To have your paycheck pulled out from under your feet can be emotionally and financially devastating. Sometimes, of course, it has to happen. But management owes it to their staff do lay people off as humanely as possible. Normally, this means face to face meetings; when that's not possible, a personal telephone from a direct manager is the way to go.

Ford's excuse for this abominable behavior? They expect the layoffs to be temporary. This is not a good reason. This is a cop-out. You wouldn't call someone personally and, when the babysitter answers, say, "Hey, can you let John know he's been fired?" But that's precisely the type of thing that happens when you robocall.

Leave the robocalls to the politicians. When you've got to fire someone, be brave enough to do it face to face. If you can't handle a personalized termination, you should be terminated from your management position. Firing is hard, but it's part of being the boss.