Honestly even as a non-manager it's a very bad idea. When I was a junior one of my colleagues was called to the manager's office. I assumed it would be for some mundane project scheduling or whatever, so I jokingly said "you're getting fired" as he was going there. And he was.
This is one of these memories that come back to haunt you late at night when you're trying to sleep...
When I went back to my car, where my then-minor sister was waiting for news, I said: "Sie hat es geschafft.", which literally means "She made it" in German - however, I meant it in the meaning of "She doesn't have to suffer any more.", which is also a valid meaning. After seeing the rlief on my sister's face, I immediately apologized and explained the situation.
Ever since this day, I a) think twice before I speak and b) try to avoid double meanings as much as I can. It still haunts me, though she's fine with it.
example question: "Is this job running?" (implied: is it "working"?)
Answer: "No, it is not currently running however I see it is scheduled to run daily at 7pm. I don't see any errors in the past 2 days. Did you expect it to import data recently?"
In this case it was a euphemism an adult would have understood but a child could not, at least as the first statement.
That one gives me nightmares.
Then my cousin died by suicide and, being my first encounter with suicide in the real world, it dawned on me that doing that in front of people was super, super not cool. I'll never know if I did that in front of someone that had lost a loved one to suicide via firearm.
You lost the statistical battle but most people will never encounter this scenario. We all encounter scenarios where we make a joke without knowing X person is going through that. You learn and adjust. For instance, I couldn't make jokes or references about cancer with a partner of mine because one of her friends died at like 17 to lung cancer. I was like, "Oh, alright. I get it. I'll avoid that with you."
You don't need to be disbarred from ever making the joke again just because you encountered someone who is sensitive to it. You just don't use that kind of joke with them.
But for me at least, it's worse when someone changes what they were going to say to try and avoid a topic they know might be sensitive to you, especially if it was in otherwise "innocent", organic conversation.
For instance, changing a joke with a cancer punchline to something else, on the fly, because halfway into it you realize it's going to offend one of the people present. Who certainly has already heard it, and knows what's coming.
Now, not only have you reminded the person of what you were trying to avoid, but you've also created this awkward tension where you-know that they-know, but have to pretend you don't know, because of the social "gesture" of changing their joke for you. Even if the fact that they're coddling you negates that gesture and then some.
The more extreme example of this is the scenario where kids in school are sharing stories about, eg, their mom or dad, and when you get to the orphan, you either skip over them, or ask them a completely different question than everyone else, without acknowledging and explaining why.
Suicide isn't so rare that we should avoid making affordances where we can. And even so, a true comic like Dave Chappelle can create real human even on dark subjects at the same time. It's a balance.
You are seriously digging deep into the "NO JOKES!" stance. Just because you did a joke that didn't go over well doesn't mean you can't make any jokes anymore.
And to be clear - because this is the internet and everyone on HN wants to be a pedantic andy - I'm not saying you go make "Dark humor is like a child with cancer. It never gets old." type of jokes to parents who had children die of leukemia or some shit.
But yes, making arbitrary rules about bad taste jokes is almost always useless.
Still, as a manager with responsibiliy you might want to restrict your toolbox of jokes by your conscience.
This is a very important realization. Firing someone is bad all around. They lose their job, they probably quit another job to join, they feel shame' etc. For the company: you not only need to go hire someone but the person you fired was probably not productive so it’s a double whammy. And you didn’t manage to somehow (if it was even possible) give this person what they needed to succeed. Bad bad bad all around. Hiring someone is a responsibility not only to the company but to them; terminating someone who can’t be productive is the right thing to do but is the company’s failure.
The converse to the “don’t joke about firing someone” is, when firing someone don’t mention how you feel about it; also be unambiguous and don’t accidentally give false hope.
Individual firings seem a bit more predictable.
This is very general advice and you need to correlate it with other events, but it's been a pretty strong indicator something was up: Keep an eye on your manager's priorities especially if they shift in a ways you can't explain.
One example from early in my career: Our manager abruptly became much less interested in product status and overall progress. To his credit he scheduled a call (we were a remote office) a couple weeks later in which he said the following: "Commit your code. Ignore all policies and procedures. Work at your own pace."
We suspected as much, but that call was the confirmation. Ironically, the organization was so large, and the layoffs so huge, they had to arrange financing just to complete the layoffs. This led to a one to two month period where we were employed, but had nothing to do. It was really weird. Generally we'd come to the office, play a bit of Half-Life, then adjourn to my friend's basement to work on the BattleBot we were building.
But for something more actionable, if your manager is constantly pressing you for "what happened with this one" when dates are slipping, or reminding you "you know, you're one of the highest paid people here..."
Take a deep breath, go in, say nothing, sign nothing, demand your last paycheck. The decision has been made, and anything you say only hurts your case if you sue later.
To anyone who has been working a while, that absolutely stinks of redundancies or other tough measures that have to be discussed en masse without rumours getting ahead.
Turns out they just hired someone new without telling anyone and wanted them to get up to speed so they don't look like a clueless bunch with bad communication. Meanwhile everyone in the office is worried they'll be the one fired.
My two examples:
Worked at a telecom company during the CLEC, deregulation days. Group of private investors devised a scheme whereas they would grow this small existing telecom company and then sell it off to a larger company and make millions. They had about $3M altogether invested. CEO burned through $2M in 6 months for stupid stuff like sky boxes at the local sports teams arena's and other frivolous stuff. Sales were slumping, we were getting a lot of calls from unhappy customers during installs. There were multiple closed door meetings with the investors. The funny part was the conference room had really thin walls and there were a lot of yelling during those meetings. You didn't have to be a genius to know whatever they had planned, wasn't happening. The final coffin was when one of the network guys told me he overheard one of the closed door meetings. He said the group was split on whether to continue the company, or fold up shop. Threats of lawsuits essentially ended the meeting and they all marched out of the office in a hurry. To me, I already felt like this wasn't going to last. Now I had confirmation and started planning to find another job.
I also worked at a huge corporation in their development department. We were a new team working on some big initiatives the company wanted to get going. Everything was going pretty smoothly. Then the recession hit in 2008. Then over the course of several lunches with various people in other departments, I found out several departments were having layoffs, reducing budgets, and putting projects on hold. Pretty soon, a lot of the teams we were working with which had dozens of people working on them, suddenly only had two or three developers. It really felt like the walls were closing in so I started looking. Literally the day I put in my two week notice, my manager said they were planning on putting our two projects on hold and laying everybody off within the next two weeks.
I think it just comes down to paying attention to what's going on around you. There's always signs things are not going well, you just have to recognize them when they present themselves. At both places, there were people who held on until it was too late. One of the techs at the telecom company said he came in one morning and the office was dark, and a security guard told him they had shut down the company and because of legal reasons, nobody could go in the office.
It was an easy few months to find another job, and sure enough a bit later the company was sold to a VC firm and then again to another corp. Things could have been fine for me, but I honestly didn't want to go through the two ownership changes. My lesson? The information usually isn't too hidden, you just have to understand the implications of the emails that you usually pass over.
Around 4 or so weeks before, I started receiving unusual interest in projects I was working on, as in my 2nd line manager (boss's boss) dropping by to make various inquiries - how's it going, remember to write up some documentation/process, do you think you'll get to the XYZ portions). It was unusual since my supervisor and I didn't talk about that during our one-on-one meetings - a more natural flow would be for boss's boss to follow up on issues I raised with my boss, or for him/her to relay their questions through my boss, not for him/her to inquire directly.
Second oddity was that weekend or the next weekend. I stopped by the office for a few hours Sat morning, and saw another even higher level manager, maybe my 3rd line manager (can't remember who reported on up etc). But I was previously a direct report of the 3rd line manager so it wasn't weird to say hi and chat. They asked what I was doing there on a weekend and if anybody specifically asked me to come in. Well no... at the time I thought it was a little odd to ask that.
Third odd sign was I put in a vacation request for Fri and Mon two weeks in advance, and it got denied. With the reason "you are scheduled for XYZ class on that Fri", and oh, I hadn't heard that class was coming or I was added to it. It was weird because typically they'd send email and ask who is interested in XYZ, we're thinking of bringing in a class, of these days which is good, etc. To find out you are in a class next week by denying a vacation request? That was weird. I asked around various coworkers and nobody else was scheduled for that class or even knew it was coming. Big red flag.
Final sign was the Tue before, boss emailed and said I could have Fri off after all. No mention of Mon off too, and no mention of class details the Tue before the class.
I figured out the layoff day moved to Thu so I would get Fri off anyway and of course I would have Mon off too (boss slipped up not mentioning it).
And sure enough, I get in Thu, I hear rumors that layoffs are occurring. After checking email and seeing nothing, I went up to the sales area (errand to run) and saw a few employees in tears while packing up. I return and my boss is looking for me, asking where I was, and oh we need to have a meeting right now. 2nd line manager is there and someone else I didn't recognize (i.e. the HR rep). Suspicions confirmed as I looked in from the hallway.
I mean... yeah, it sucks, but have you tried being fired?
That was the hardest bit - I wasn't even able to tell them WHY they had been selected over others as I had no idea.
Then a few weeks later, they came for me, too.
Source: Been on the receiving end of 2 layoffs (dot-bomb and covid), it _reeeaaaallllyyyy_ sucks to be fired in a down market, like "how am I going to feed my family, how much is in the bank, and when is the mortgage/rent due" level of suckage.
To clarify, the person losing their job has the bigger problem and are worse off. But the person doing the firing pays a cost as well, and between the two, getting fired is easier for me to handle than firing someone.
Layoffs are probably a little different because they're less personal, but I've not experienced those, so I don't know.
I've done both as well, and I agree. I'll take getting fired any day of the week over having to fire someone.
The end of an intensely bad experience can be the beginning of another.
My output wasn't great, so I wasn't shocked, but I'd gotten so little feedback about it that I assumed that low output was normal. It was a small company, and they person doing HR said they had no idea it was going to happen, so I think it was a quick decision. I was pretty bitter because of that, and that I was 9 months in after taking a large pay cut, and no options vested yet.
That place went on to do random firings for a year.
If someone simply isn't working well enough for their role, there is usually some kind of capability process after which their employment might be terminated but we wouldn't usually call that being fired and if that is made clear in the job description and in regular feedback, I don't think most people would consider that unreasonable.
Curiously how did you screw up the interview process?
Are you referring to some clerical error or is this assuming that candidates are only as good as they are at interview time and they're incapable of stepping up to the unexpected demands of a role?
I'd assume they meant the opposite: candidates are at least as good as they are at interview time, so if they're not capable of filling the role, that ought to be obvious in a properly-done interview.
I still feel terrible about that to the day, and that guy's been working here for years now.
Their manager walked by and said rather flippantly, "I wouldn't bother doing that, he won't be here to enjoy it."
Luckily I haven't been fired since, but that "joke" stuck with me.
Many years ago it got to be a standing joke in various places I’ve worked that if someone actually left a digram on a whiteboard, eg some bit of server infrastructure or UML, you’d add extra arrows pointing to “DOWNSIZING” or “EMPLOYEE REDUNDANCIES” bubbles.
Then one day I explained the old joke at a new gig and everyone in the room got really serious for a moment.
They told me that 6 monthish prior someone from senior management had left plans for the last downsizing round on a whiteboard and lots of people had seen it…
It makes me think that they are a weak “rules lawyer” type, who are more interested in always having plausible deniability/coverage of their own ass than actually leading their team.
Sometimes we joke about things to reduce fear, but sometimes joking about things normalizes them.
I get bureaucrats talk about building slow and expensive process controls to prevent someone from doing something stupid. I counter with the fact that we don't need the controls because my employees know I will simply fire the person if they do it.
- You’re eating too much and we can’t afford you, we will giving you to human traffickers for free.
- If you go out and play before finishing the homework you will be eaten by wolves.
- If you don’t obey the cops are going to arrest and execute you.
- Stay away from dogs or it will bite your pp off.
- Oh we thought you were useful when we found you in the trash can, it turns out we’re wrong and we’re going to throw you back.
And there are hundreds of variants or so. They must have an anti-fortune cookie database kept under their pillow… So pathetic.
Cultures that think this behavior is ok are the fucking worst. I would never ever do that if I had a child.
I found the tone of voice most significant in this kind of situation. When it was “smiley, jokey”, I would get it was a joke – but even mock seriousness or, worse, exasperated parent, was completely credible.
I grew up in Asia. I guess it's one of those cultural differences, like calling people "fatass" or drinking on the street without a shirt is not too inappropriate in some places. So people would have to shrug it off, try to adapt, and try to think those are just jokes without bad intentions. But still, it hurts and it does have life-long negative impacts on many people as far as I can see.
On top of that, I find people from better-educated families, or people from many other provinces in the same country don't share the same experience as us. My guess is economic and education status helps. From what I can see, the current generation of kids does receive substantially less abuse than say three decades ago.
Not helping you advance or making your life difficult, yes, managers can do that, but in general in all the organizations I've seen (in IT corps and finance; perhaps industries like e.g. fast food are very different) if a manager would really want to get rid of someone, it would take them months of "political effort" to try and do so (and they might still fail), because they really did not have that power to just fire someone.
I work at a large company with separate engineering/management tracks, and gaining any visibility into the business from the engineering floor is like pulling teeth. For example, I've been blindsided by reassignments that are technically voluntary but I know if I make a stink about them it'll hurt my reputation. I certainly wasn't consulted about the problem my re-assignment addresses until it was happening. That lack of context creates an environment where employees have to read the tea leaves from the drips and drabs of information they can get, a joke about firing would definitely prompt me to update my resume, just in case.
However a slight variation about joking with kids that I find does work surprisingly well is the totally exhagerrated consequences. But it really has to be totally over the top and utterly unbelievable, the sillier the better. It simultaneously breaks the impending mood of conflict, makes them laugh, while somehow actually motivating them to do what they are resisting. We all know it won't be the real consequence of them (not) doing whatever, but it still seems to work. It's weird. Doesn't always work of course (nothing with kids ever does), but a variation on the theme has frequently helped.
And that was the time the class decided to go to our head teacher and tell her that his jokes were not funny at all and she reported back that our chemistry teacher was surprised about how someone did not appreciate his brand of humor.
It seems like obvious advice, but the circumstances where this sort of thing could happen are described very well in the article.
I revert to humour in awkward situations, like a lot of people, but I quickly realised that there are some things that you can’t joke about when in this position.
Thankfully I don’t think the team member took any offence by it (although how would I know) - we had a good rapport and relationship, but I immediately realised my “joke” could be taken so many different (wrong) ways that I made a conscious decision to be much more careful after that.
Like many things in life, it seems blindingly obvious in retrospect but not necessarily when you’re caught up in the moment.
- Avoid all urges to make comparisons between your direct reports to your children no matter how relevant it may seem in your head
- Avoid referring to your direct reports as cats that need to be herded at the start of every meeting
In my experience, there are two types of humor that should be avoided, which I learned the hard way:
* Punching down (including joking about doing harm from a position of power)
* Sarcasm/cynicism in public channels, especially when it's directed at specific people/teams.
You can certainly have too much "party" in the office. But you can also not have enough.
I remember looking at the VMware guys I was with and their eyes were bugging out like WTF, did he really just say that. By this point I was used to his crap and kindof let it roll off me. After we got away one of them asked if I was okay and said screw the presentation--he'd go introduce me to some people :D I talked him through it and did the presentation anyway.
This boss was definitely toxic--he relished psych games, and at one point handed out copies of "The art of War" so we could all "brush up"--and as much fun as I was having working there (not because of this stuff), I finally did leave within a few months on my own terms. Never have I worked with anybody as toxic as that.
(After I returned I asked the CTO about the call the boss was on where they "talked about my replacement." The CTO scoffed at it, and said that call had no such conversation.
In followups my boss backpedalled and said he just meant because I was going away for a few weeks and who would cover me during that time--of course that's what he meant).
I knew someone who had done this and the person was fired that day.
I'm sure he believed it, too, or he wouldn't have said it. But he apparently didn't have all the facts. He regrets saying it and told the story a few times while I worked with him.
On the flip side, I worked with someone who was doing poorly in their job (after having done better in the past) and tried to help them keep their job.
The longer it stretched on, the worse they did.
In the end, they lost their job and I found out afterwards that they thought we were attempting to gather enough data to fire them, when in reality there were a few of us that were actively trying to help them keep it, and even management didn't want them gone, they just wanted them to perform adequately again.
I often wonder if I should have been clear about the risk to their job, or if that would just have been seen as a threat instead. At this point, I don't think I'd do anything different.
He picked up everything off his desk and walked out. Turned out he had just been fired, but he had been told it was a lay off to soften the blow. I actually thought he should be fired but the problem had been going on so long and it was the kind of place that just never fired people, so I didn't even consider that possibility.
11 years ago, I think - I still wish I hadn't said anything. But I also wish he had been given candid feedback by his manager much earlier.
I appreciate the reassurance, though! Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I think the parent comment is right that it's better to just not say anything when you don't know the whole situation.
I have seen literally hundreds of comments/jokes/emails/phone call recordings/etc taken out of obvious context and submitted as evidence - often to the detriment of the innocent. In the serious environment of a lawyers office or court room, or in the intentionally biased environment of social media - NOTHING IS FUNNY. All jokes are insensitive at best, or are at worst evidence of malicious intent.
Over the years, in my opinion, I have personally this phenomenon getting significantly worse.
We advise all our clients just not to make jokes, unless you're in private with very close friends/colleagues you trust. Never EVER make a joke or sarcastic comment in writing. Anything that can be misinterpreted, WILL be misconstrued, often intentionally, when any relationship sours.
In general, if you are or might become under any scrutiny whatsoever, golden rule #1 is: Shut the fuck up.
There are some instances where it might potentially help - when your team is under stress (real or perceived). Light humor (if well done), might alleviate some of the tension in the room and let them focus on work.
One thing is for certain, NEVER put jokes or sarcasm in writing.
I've read way too many of those in court.
You can still be kind, empathetic and polite to everybody you work with. But avoiding authentic personal relationships at work is very sensible, along with having very clear personal boundaries. Normal colleagues can form cliques of people they trust, but it’s not a great outcome for management to be participating in that, even though that’s what usually happens.
“Bring your true self to work” and other modern workplace nonsense is risky advice to take seriously. It’s mostly a coded communication that does not mean what it appears to on the surface.
Make jokes, it helps build rapport with people you spend so much time with! But be careful about the message you convey, people will run wild with it overnight.
Depends on what you are going for.
In most of these orgs, getting rid of someone is kind of hard work, usually involving a lot of HR. A manager would have much more luck getting you moved to a different team.
And while transferring an inept employee to another manager might save you some paperwork, it'll make that manager an enemy (unless the employee's performance is much improved by the move). So many managers would do the paperwork.
True but note in the US this isn’t for the same reasons that happens in (for example) Europe.
Big companies are better to sue than small companies (they have more money) and were you really fired because you never got any work done or because your manager simply didn’t like you because of something you didn’t control or because they didn’t tell you what you were supposed to do? So the company lawyers and HR people put together a long list of things to go through to make such suits hard to file.
One of those processes are to put people “on a plan”: written warning with super-explicit instructions of what to do. I’ve found in a couple of cases this has been the (final) wake up call that has made someone get back on track. But what sucks is that most companies just treat it as a check off item: once someone is on a plan they can never recover.
Also when the problem is the manager, feedback rarely flows in that direction.
That said, I do wonder how much the perception of them is skewed by their lack of visibility -- of the cases where I have been aware of a PIP, the only one which was had any real visibility in the wider org was the one where the person ended up leaving the company.
It's entirely plausible that my employer is one of the better ones, though. And even then, I've seen (what appeared to me to be) abuses. One of the things that can come out of a manager putting someone on a PIP is that it's actually the manager who is in the wrong. It takes a good HR team to recognise that, though.
I don’t know if you meant that or not so thought I’d mention it.
It's important to note the distinction between "manager" and "management". In larger organizations an entry-level worker is x levels away from top management, and a first level line manager is x-1 levels away from top management, where x is 5-10 i.e. they are quite far from management and very close to the actual worker.
In a large company, from the perspective of actual decision makers or HR, a first level line manager or a team lead is just a slightly different job description of anonymous interchangeable peon. You have a hundred customer service representatives and a bunch of CS teamleads; you have fifty small branch offices/stores/warehouses/whatever and so you have fifty mostly interchangeable branch managers. Their role is supervising the team and executing the assigned goals and policy with minimal influence on it - any actual policy is set by that manager's boss boss or higher; any policy exceptions are likely to require approval from that manager's boss or higher, etc. Of course, if you have only a hundred or so people in the whole organization, then it's different, and most organizations are small or medium enterprises - but quite a few people do work in large corporations.
They'll mostly side with the manager (because selection bias, not a lot of managers are bringing them cases of people they want fired where that outcome is not compatible with the processes) but may very well tell a manager to just deal with it if that's what's "doing their jobs" looks like.
Things like this are never as black and white as people looking for cheap upvotes make them out to be.
For example, it may be quite clear even from externally looking at other reports (e.g. data from "360-degree reviews" or whatever internal evaluation process the corporation uses) that the consensus around the team is that the person is not a bad performer, but that the team lead has had recorded "problems with cooperation" - in that case, escalating the conflict with an IC to HR may easily be the breaking point that causes the team lead to be removed.
0 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At-will_employment
At a small company, there is often no such thing as HR, and your manager often has the direct power to fire you.
Everywhere in the US you can’t be fired for your country of origin or due to age (these aren’t always easy to prove of course) but, for example, if the boss decided to get rid of all left-handed people one day that would be perfectly legal.
When managing people, why on earth would joking about firing people even cross your mind?
It's very, very standard for people to make sarcastic/ironic/teasing jokes in this vein as a way of trying to break tension or lighten the mood.
Not really what you asked, but maybe relevant.
The permanent employees however… better be prepared for a year long process.
I remember a job interview where the interviewer launched into a story, unprompted, about firing someone. Didn't express any regrets or sympathy for the person. That interview was over that second. Maybe that person was the most deserving person in the world to get fired but just the fact that he thought it was something to be discussed with an interviewee spoke volumes.
Our company is fully remote. One of the clause on the contract of each employee is no moonlighting. They are not allowed to work on anything else professionally. They can work on personal software project if they notify me in advance.
This is because in a fully remote companies there are not office hours and it's very hard to define what's work and what's not.
Employee Alice worked for us 3 months. She was not very responsive but her work was a 7/10.
One day I found Alice was actually part of an agency and she was actually a Project Manager delegating all her work to other people. I noticed this because she had a MacBook but screenshots of her work were on Windows.
When confronted she straight out denied the whole thing.
After finding many more evidence she finally admitted she had delegated work to some "friend".
I fired her with her pleading it was all a big misurderstanding.
It was terrible, I felt so bad because even though I had found a lot of physical proof of her deception she was still playing the card of "please no really it's a misunderstanding". I doubted myself a lot fearing I had indeed fired an innocent person just being paranoid.
Now when I hire new employees I underline the NO MOONLIGHT policy and tell them I had to fire an employee in the past. It was ugly and I wish to not have to redo that.
I'm a single founder software engineer growing a team and having to deal with management for the first time.
I'm unsure of most of my decisions. If you have some advice that you can give me in a kind fashion without making me feel even more inadequate that I already do it might help me become a better manager.
If they're also doing another job on the side, but it isn't impacting their delivery of the work you're asking for, that shouldn't be a problem. By doing away with a (largely unenforceable) policy of no moonlighting you also avoid the problem of having to fire people for breaching it.
I'm borderline on whether Alice here was even at fault. She is likely in breach of her contract for several other things, I assume there's a routine NDA in place which probably means that she shouldn't be sharing confidential company information with outside parties, but if not and she was getting work delivered is it really a problem if she did so by being good at project management rather than software development?
I agree but that is easier said than done.
Software is very intangible and creative and I do not have experience in managing other developers.
One of my employees is a university dropout with 3 years working experience from a developing country and is the only developer other than me.
I have no clue what's the amount of code he's suppose to deliver. I have very little metrics of reference to work with.
No moonlighting, screenshots, this quote "This is because in a fully remote companies there are not office hours and it's very hard to define what's work and what's not"
Someone good enough to do exactly what you need is not the sort of person that only does exactly what you need. You're only interviewing people that didn't rule you out
Imagine the person sitting there. This person who I don't even work for yet is starting off with telling me about how they fired someone. Are they telling the truth? Do they really feel bad about it? Maybe it's his way of letting me know that this is the way things are around here and he knows he can't come right out and say, "I love to fire people" so he's just trying to soften it. Why's it still on his mind? Does he have a hard time letting things go and holds grudges?
How would you feel if you took someone out to dinner and on your first date started telling you some story about how bad they felt about dumping their last romantic partner? Sure maybe it was the right thing to do. You're not going to feel better about them. The best you can hope for is you don't feel worse about them. It's all down side where the best you can hope for is a neutral. If you're playing a game where the best you can do is lose or draw it's better to just not play the game. Don't talk about firing people.
> I'm a single founder software engineer growing a team and having to deal with management for the first time. I'm unsure of most of my decisions. If you have some advice that you can give me in a kind fashion without making me feel even more inadequate that I already do it might help me become a better manager.
My feedback: drop the terrible policy. It's not legal in California for a reason.
That's not to say requirements can't change - of course they can. But they shouldn't change just because I forgot to make myself clear the first time.
Either communicating the course, or if upper management fails in their duties, charting the course and communicating, is essential.
For example, "we will deprecate this technology by XX date, and we have cleared the path to enable this" is often essential to success. In a healthy org, telling people what you're doing, how you're doing it, and why you're doing it is as necessary as when you're doing it.
Just like you don't want to release every feature all at once, you similarly don't want to muck up your infrastructure (physical or business).
The problem with always mentioning the reason is that it then stands out when you don't. Sometimes there is something unpleasant to discuss that you can't put in a meeting invite.
Signed, someone who works at a company with a culture of sending blank meeting invites
When on the receiving end of a contextless meeting request I usually say, "Sure, what do you want to talk about?"
It's a similar thing, I think. I'm unexpectedly in a position of power over my friends and I want to efuse it with jokes.
Management is, way too often, treated as a "privilege," and a "reward."
I was a manager for 25 years. I never felt "privileged," and I considered it a "curse."
I hated every damn minute of it, but I kept doing it, because I am a control freak, and couldn't trust anyone else to do a better job. I also avoided getting promoted, because I didn't want to leave my team in the hands of the other managers I knew.
Most of my peers and superiors provided object examples in what not to do.
A further issue is the mismatch in weight given to their words over their intention. Even I hit this, once my employee told me he gave strong weight to a point I had casually mentioned. For once in my life someone remembered what I said better than me. It was a bit worrying, as my exact comment had been meant to be a minor point.
Thankfully I knew prior to "getting power" to, as I word it, "never make jokes which imply a power structure". As the listener can never truly know if the joke was speaking to an unsaid idea.
It's the same thing that manager might have said the day before as a peer as a sort of grim humor, but is now suddenly off limits. Hell, there is the possibility the relationship is good enough that it is still funny.
I wouldn't make it at a company that frowns upon a 'God Damnit' in a log message.
Perhaps you have a highly orthodox individual as a user, should they be forced to read or even repeat a 'God Damnit' in a log or error message while on the phone with support? Should an atomic-bomb survivor be told that their files were nuked?
I guess it was as lucky as you can get since we had made the joke together and I just forgot to delete it. Still remember the code, I thought I was sooooo funny. I apologize on behalf of my former self.
Don't use silly variable names, or add jokes or profanity into your code or documentation.
Sooner or later it will surface and there is NOTHING quite as embarrasing as showing a unknown third party or a manager something on the screen that screams immaturity.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to have fun at the workplace, because you should. Also it makes life at work much easier if everyone has fun- just be professional and respectful.
Also, sometimes you do slip up. Don't be afraid to apologize. It is ok. It is human to make errors, but learn from your mistakes and move on.
It's also an interesting show to watch as you progress in your career. Winters always wants to be part of the action, but is told to hold back and trust his men as he advances in rank. There's lessons there for anyone transitioning from individual contributor to leader.
In most companies, managers' greatest power (besides controlling subordinates' movement, actions, privacy, and access to amenities such as light, heating/cooling, quiet environments, restrooms, etc.) is their largely unlimited power to simultaneously deprive subordinates of their livelihood, health insurance, social relationships, and social status.
Ed Zitron suggests that maintaining this social dominance and control over subordinates is typically the underlying (and primary) reason why managers want employees "back in the office":
We got some strong negative feedback about a headline saying that people had been "fired" when the story was that a kind of lab technology had become obsolete and a number of lab technicians had been laid off. I had signed off on the headline, was responsible, and have never forgotten.
People take their jobs very seriously; it's the thing we choose to do -- or have to do -- instead of being with our families and friends. And "fired" is one of the strongest words in our language. We need to be sure we understand what we are doing when we use it.
Nothing bad came of it, but it does show how easy it is to do.
(No throwing stars or nunchucks either.)
The chef was a young woman of color, and the resort manager, and older white woman who was everyone's boss was from the country that had colonized the island. The boss decided to insert herself into the dinner because some friends of hers were staying at the resort and were at the restaurant that night. She dominated the conversation the entire night, and repeatedly made jokes about firing the chef. It was incredibly awkward and made an otherwise fantastic meal horrible. We wrote a letter to the resort about how awful the experience was. I don't know what eventually became of it, but I hope it made some sort of difference.
Don't do this. Promote and put them over another team.
Person X at $100k is given ... $40k to quit now, because it will save company perhaps $260k in the next 2 years. But.. that $40k is coming from somewhere now, no? Maybe some is coming from other folks cut immediately without the big pile of cash?
It's generally cheaper to make a single larger payout than to engage in recurring smaller payouts.
Ditto with layoffs. 2-3 months salary to get rid of employees you can’t afford at the moment is a short payoff compared to salaries, and worth it to salvage some reputation for future hiring.
I frequently see short-term decisions to get funding triumph over long-term planning when private investors are involved. And it might even be the right choice - grow and get all the funds, then clean up tech debt in future years. It can be frustrating, but is a valid business play.
Most large companies set aside money for layoffs in their financial filings under one-time expenses. They will usually explain what impact the layoffs will be expected to have on profitability.
No such power imbalance exists with an employee joking about quitting, but I also struggle to think of any situation in which it's actually a funny joke to make.
Boss, to employee: "I'd just like you to know that I'd never joke about firing you. I recognise that it would be needlessly cruel because, although you're reliant on the company to earn a living, the company would actually be better off without you." D:
The truth it: neither of them is a joke. It's just pure BS that comes either out of sheer and innocent incompetence or stupidity.
A good rule of thumb is "don't make gambles where the best-case scenario is that nothing bad happens."
I think that another way to prevent it is by asking yourself if the other person will find it funny.
That's a general advice not just specific to firing/leaving a company.
It doesn't take much thought, really, to consider that the office may provide employees a welcome change of scene from their own swirling domestic situation, and to have one leak into the other like this may be quite upsetting.
I have promised myself that if/when I witness this again, I will take the opportunity to tell the manager in question that his/her remarks were damaging to their own standing, and that they would do well to apologise ASAP, be that in private or in public.
Be a leader of people and times , not simply a manager of issues and tasks.
 as in, "experiences"
After all, you're still likely to have to spend time and energy to defend yourself in some capacity, and you now think your manager isn't going to (or might not) have your back, either now or if something is going to happen in the future.
It was incredibly toxic when applied to humans.
Everyone loved them because they did it with a candor that was always very obviously not serious it was disarming.
Given the nature of the work we did was very high risk, the disarming was welcome. Being fired was nowhere near the worst case outcome if we didn't do our jobs well, so joking about anything was fair game if it helped relieve some tension.
Be careful not to create environments where people have to add walking on eggshells to their already long list of difficult responsibilities.
> On day 1 of a new hire's employment, I explain what it will look like if and when I come to fire them. I explain that I will be negotiating their severance and here's how it will look...
Does this ring any bells with anyone? I have this article lodged in my brain as being a great conversation to have with someone on day 1, but have since never been able to find the article again.
It's just way too easy to send the wrong message.
As a manager your words have a great deal of WEIGHT regardless of your intention.
It used to be quite awkward to meet person X at a bar and ask them why they were changing their job when this was the first time they heard about it.
Turns out that toxification of workplace is better at getting rid of people than going about it legally.
I trend more for the joking line of "hey once you move onward and upward be sure to send me your consulting rate cause we'll still need you"
- different cultures have different meanings for the same things, so you will be misinterpreted lots of times
- most people have no sense of humor, so joking with them is a waste of time
- anything you way will eventually be used against you
It is a very sad world.
Honestly even as a non-manager it's a very bad idea. When I was a junior one of my colleagues was called to the manager's office. I assumed it would be for some mundane project scheduling or whatever, so I jokingly said "you're getting fired" as he was going there. And he was.
This is one of these memories that come back to haunt you late at night when you're trying to sleep...