I collect books of aphorisms. Maybe I find myself out of wisdom and need a quick transfusion, or because I like the rhetoric of a good aphorism. More likely than not, it’s because life — and the workplace within it — usually is not black and white. Aphorisms help remind us of timeless advice for dealing with the gray. Despite the vulgarity of its title, “Don’t Squat with Your Spurs On,” a book of Western-themed aphorisms, included one of my favorites:
“Trouble may walk in the door, but you don’t have to give it a chair.”
So I’m going to do a blog post every so often with that title in mind. Here’s the first.
A quick termination meeting is decisive and saves time. It helps avoid an employee’s creating a counteroffensive by getting others to intervene on her behalf. It helps to protect the employer’s computer system. But firing an employee creates drawbacks, too. Chief among them is that it likely will adversely affect her ability to get a job or at least to get one quickly. In the long-run, it may not be good for the employer, either. For example, if the employee asserts a claim against the employer later, her difficulty in getting a job and length of time it took will be used to prove damages. That may increase the settlement value of the case.
Rather than firing the employee, why not give her the chance to resign? Consider meeting with her, letting her know about the impending decision, letting her know that that is what is going to happen if nothing further occurs, and then offering her the opportunity to walk out the door herself. You could give her fifteen minutes or overnight to get back to you. You could show her the letter she’s going to receive if she does not resign.
Of course, there are times when it is inadvisable to offer an employee a choice to resign. For example, an employee assaults another or embezzles money. An employee may be volatile or untrustworthy or vindictive. In those situations, it may be important to make a statement to other members of the workforce or avoid trouble.
Under the right circumstances, however, the simple step of offering an employee the chance to resign may help her get a decent job more easily and more quickly. It will allow the employee to save face and minimize the humiliation that some employees list in their claim for emotion distress damages. And it may cost the employer next to nothing to do so.