Sunday, April 01, 2007

Walk of Shame: Terminated employee returns

I hate firing an employee. As bad as the process is for me, it is worse the the terminated employee.

The lastest employee, CW was employed a mere eight months. Forty five of those days, she was on a work improvement plan. I have been in the working world for almost 30 years, I have never encountered a human so openly hostile.

There are some basic office etiquette rules:

> Greeting your coworkers upon your arrival. A basic "hello" will suffice.
> Not initially copying your boss on correspondence to your peers
> Using basic english
> Not fighting with your clients
> Actually performing your work

When CW joined our organization, she informed me that she would have to move and change schools for her children. I gave her the flexibility to take care of home as long as she got her work done.

It took about thirty days before her peers wanted to kill her. I called her in to chat with her. I suggested that she lighten up. CW did inform me that she came from an environment where there was little client interaction. She was given a certain "authority" to work her files. However, copying her boss on her e-mails was mandatory. Considering that she came from a competitor with a similar environment, I was a little surprised.

She was generally stunned that we were having this conversation. What emerged from our conversation was that she has worked in a mostly white environment. She was always treated poorly because she was Muslim, the situation got worse after 9-11. My office is culturally and socially diverse. We have everything ranging from a black flamboyant homosexual to an Egyptian. Even my minister in training wanted to choke her. She admitted no one was treating her poorly.

Not a good sign. She is an African-American woman with three kids, I wanted her to succeed. I advised her that we are a team. If she checked her attitude at the door, she would be fine.

The noise calmed down a little with her peers. Then the provider and client calls began. I tried without success to work with this woman.

What is remarkable that she has worked in our industry for seven years. I have to wonder if her previous managers were afraid to have the conversation that we had for fear of being called a racist. Not holding her to the same standards as her peers to me is a worse form of racism.

I digress.

Thursday was beautiful and the day before payday. HR sent CW's termination package which included eight weeks severance pay. The promise the company would not challenge her unemployment is part of the deal.

I scheduled the meeting with her late in the day. I let the rest of the staff go early to enjoy the day. The thought process was prevent her from the "walk of shame." That was the plan.

I met with CW with my associate. The encounter was brief. I explained the terms of the termination. I specifically informed her that "tomorrow is your official last day but since I have given you your check you do not have to come in."

CW got up, shook my hand, cleaned out her desk and left. It appeared my associate took it harder than she did.
Next I did all of the funky stuff that comes with a termination, notifying staff, clients, and making the security changes.

End of story right? Why would it be?

The next morning, I get an e-mail from my lead adjuster informing me that CW showed up to work. My receptionist buzzed her in before she checked her e-mail.

Happy F@#$ing Friday!

I just returned from a workout, so I had to bathe, as to not worsen an already funky situation. I called my associate to share the fun news and to see if he was closer to the office. Because of the nature of our relationship, the mere call from me, he knew something wasn't cool. He was as stunned as I. All he said was WTF???

Even with a shower, I accepted the fact I would get to the office before him.

In the fifteen minutes, this process took, thoughts of an angry exchange to "Office Space" scenarios ran through my mind.

On the way to work, I called HR and informed her of the situation. She just started laughing. I thanked her for her help and hung up. Good grief.

When I arrived the office was very quiet. Very unusual for a claims office. I went to her station and asked her to "please leave."
" I didn't want to leave a mess" was her response. Please keep in mind I had removed all but one account so that she could not do anymore harm during her final days of employment.

She had to walk by all of her peers who quietly turned away. Even though they were glad to see her go, it was sad how it ended.

She had to take the "Walk of the Shame."

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