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How I Fire People (boss.blogs.nytimes.com)
156 points by michaelleland on June 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments

Summary: Cover your ass.

Here are the author's ideas, rewritten without the pollyannaish nonsense:

Step 1: Have a gigantic book of employee guidelines. At any point in time, you should be able to pick an employee and find something you can write them up for. Have the employee sign a piece of paper on day 1 that they are aware of the book.

Step 2: Before you fire the employee, make sure you've written him up more than once. Lay your groundwork a week or two in advance. Find something else, and do the paperwork from step one. You don't fire an employee for walking in on the VP banging a secretary, it's because he wasn't filing his TPS reports properly.

Step 3: When actually firing somebody, have a witness + a recording device in the room. This protects you from sexual harassment lawsuits.

Step 4: Explanations: Blame the economy. If that doesn't work, blame the phases of the moon. Anything you want, but not something that is grounds for a wrongful termination suit.

I also especially liked this: Part of the Employee Handbook: "Reasons for termination include but are not limited to the following: [...] • Other reasons not listed here"

And then his comment: "As you can see, these are clear boundaries"

Yeah, very clear boundaries there: You can be fired for anything, including "reasons not listed here".

It is actually a pretty clear list. It's listing a number of things clearly. It's also saying that the list is not closed, because anything can happen and you can't predict everything.

What if an employee decides to splash paint on all the cars in the car park? Unlikely, but possible, and it's stupid to try and come up with every such possibility, because you'll never hit them all. The list hits the most common issues and lays them out clearly.

It's easy. My employee handbook, should I ever get to that stage, shall read:

1) Be honest. 2) Don't be a dipshit. 3) If you have a problem with something, ask.

As your number of staff increases, you'll find that you need to be more explicit. Real world people are complex creatures, and managing them isn't simple. What defines 'being a dipshit', for example? For some, it's being a pedant. For others, it's being slow to learn. Others think it's about obnoxiousness. Besides, rules like "fraudulent timesheets are a fireable offense" make it explicitly clear that 'we check these things', and avoid the 'but I didn't know it was wrong' excuses that you will hear with enough employees, commonsense be damned.

True but such is life. You make up for it by always giving people a chance first. You never fire on the first sign of dipshittiness.

Came here to post that.

In addition, the dickhead reserves the right to change the rules at any time, and you're required to sign everything. So basically, once you have a job and a contract, you're signing a second contract, when you've been lured into their honey pot. At this moment you end up at a dead end, because you have probably told your other jobs you won't accept. Yeah, nicely played.

It is quite insidious. Consider:

We told the veterans to help the new people whenever they could, but none of the old heads really wanted to be bothered

But that contravenes:

Employees will try to increase productivity in operations whenever possible.

He's got them all over a barrel.

It's Catch-22!

If they don't help, they're not trying to increase productivity.

If they DO help, their OWN productivity will suffer, and if they are truly in, say, the 10%, they are probably more productive than a newbie will ever be.

The problem is that the boss needs a way to tell if that help is falling on deaf ears. If the help isn't having a sufficiently positive effect, then you have someone who is not qualified to do the work. Is the boss really interested in making his team stronger all-around (not just a few star employees), or does he just not want to have to deal with answering questions from new hires who might be struggling?

I'm in this position right now. I'm not being conceited, but I am in the role of the highly-productive employee. My boss hires people (or we acquire new team members as the result of a company organizational change). Either way, before the new team members start, my boss inevitably asks me to make sure they can do the job. I've never seen anyone in my department fired due to incompetence. Whenever a team member has questions/problems, they almost always end up getting sent to me. It has gotten to the point where I now have to head a weekly developer meeting that is really just a glorified question and answer session.

The problem is that my team members are never weaned off of my help. My boss doesn't seem to care about this. I've overheard him say to people, who were trying to figure things out without having to ask me for help, to just ask me. I understand that it's more important to my boss to just get things done, but that creates an unnecessary dependency on me. I'm not scalable. Hire better employees or take a hands-on approach to training, but don't keep sending them to me all the time.

I can understand why the author's top employees didn't want be bothered with helping those who were struggling. You don't want to be in a position where you have to do your job plus some/most/all of someone else's.

To be fair, he fully sees the error of the former situation and takes blame for that personally. I don't think he was trying to do this on purpose.

He takes the blame, but he also realizes the cause of the problem and does nothing: "particularly given that we keep track of everyone’s output and any time spent teaching new people would reduce the build total of the teacher."

Yeah, that really stood out to me. He claimed to want to train the new people, but also said he couldn't afford the loss in productivity. You can't have it both ways.

It doesn't contravene at all, given that he says one of the major reasons they don't like to help is that it drops productivity.

It drops their personal productivity, on which their pay is set, but increases productivity overall.

Nice summary of what my reaction was after reading this post. I especially like the parts of the excerpt that basically said, "we may fire you for any of these things, or something else entirely".

>> or something else entirely

"making eye contact with your betters"

"choosing the wrong religion"

"whatever else I feel like, but can't write down without getting sued?"

For extra credit, compare and contrast this approach to the US justice system.

I'm not sure what you're saying. All of his ideas, even "rewritten without pollyannaish nonsense", seem to me like essential components of firing someone the right way. Could you contrast these steps with how you believe people should be fired?

Summary: Cover your ass.

Certainly doing the right thing is one way to cover your ass.

Step 1: Have a gigantic book of employee guidelines. At any point in time, you should be able to pick an employee and find something you can write them up for. Have the employee sign a piece of paper on day 1 that they are aware of the book.

Are you saying it's better not to have clear employee guidelines or not to make sure they know them?

Step 2: Before you fire the employee, make sure you've written him up more than once. Lay your groundwork a week or two in advance. Find something else, and do the paperwork from step one. You don't fire an employee for walking in on the VP banging a secretary, it's because he wasn't filing his TPS reports properly.

Are you saying it's better not to wait for repeat offenses, or better not to have clear reasons for firing?

I have no idea where you got this "VP banging a secretary" interpretation. He's talking about his furniture company of 6 carpenters, for goodness sake.

Step 3: When actually firing somebody, have a witness + a recording device in the room. This protects you from sexual harassment lawsuits.

It only protects you from sexual harassment lawsuits if you don't sexually harass them. It also only protects you from any other kind of lawsuit for wrongful behavior if you don't behave wrongfully. Isn't it a good thing for them to not sexually harass employees?

Step 4: Explanations: Blame the economy. If that doesn't work, blame the phases of the moon. Anything you want, but not something that is grounds for a wrongful termination suit.

Is it better to have no reason, or not to explain to the employee that there were external factors in the decision, or to lie that there were no external factors? Or are you saying external factors never dominate and blaming them is always lying?

Of course you shouldn't fire some one for reasons that would be grounds for a wrongful termination suit. Because those would be wrongful terminations!

You seem to be narrowly interpreting his attempts to do the right thing as just attempting to cover his ass. I don't see where you got this, he repeatedly agonizes over doing firing the right way. Could you explain what you think he'd do differently if he were actually a good boss, as opposed to just trying to cover his ass?

But in my defense, training workers is extremely expensive for a small shop like mine. I would have had to assign one of my better guys to the task full time for there to be any hope of success, and I simply could not afford to do that.

We are eating our seed corn.

This kind of thought process that you've pointed out above is probably the biggest cancer of the industry to be honest. What happened to apprenticeship?

Better your hiring practice or stop hiring cheap.

Also I'd wager with such an absurdly wrong mindset they still use software to filter resumes, which often kills chances for good talent to get through because you've placed some arbitrary value on your time OVER the added value of good recruitment and staffing.

Your rivals (whether they make competing products or merely use their success to bid against you for employees) net most of the benefit from your training investment when your trainees aren't going to spend the majority of their career with you. Vocational training becomes a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good when there's no mutual expectation of longevity and loyalty. We're eating each others' seed corn.

CFO asks his CEO, "What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave the company?" CEO answers, "What happens if we don't, and they stay?"

And, of course, the other question: why don't we figure out how to get them to stay once they're marketable?

Your rivals (whether they make competing products or merely use their success to bid against you for employees) net most of the benefit from your training investment when your trainees aren't going to spend the majority of their career with you.

Great, then the issue is to figure out "how do we create an environment and culture where people will stay here for a very long time?"

Your trainees might stick around for decades if you offered a superlative work arrangement.

Permit me to tilt at a windmill for a moment and point out that employee training is neither non-rivalrous nor non-excludable. It is not a public good.

Not true, or rather, not completely true. It depends on whether you're talking from the point of view of the employer or the employee.

If I'm employing someone, a competitor can't easily employ them at the same time (sort-of excludable, up until they quit). And the costs of training an employee are usually fairly fixed - paying for a course plus wages - so they're rivalrous, since an extra training course will cost the same.

As an employee, on the other hand, I can certainly deny my training/experience to those who don't pay for it (ie. it's excludable).

The original point was that maintaining a pool of skilled employees is in the best interests of a group of companies even if they're rivals, since more people with the skill will tend to drive wages down. If, on the other hand, they neglect training and fewer people are available, then production suffers and wages go up. The "public" in this case is the group of companies.

It's true that work from a skilled employee is a rival resource, what you pay me to do only benefits you and not the rest of the industry (unless it's open source). But it doesn't seem excludable—if I train employees, there's no mechanism I can use to prevent you from hiring them later if you didn't contribute to the training costs.

Here's where I confess I don't understand why nonrivalry is built into the definition of a public good, since it's nonexcludability that gives rise to the free rider problem.

In this economy its more like handing out knives, dice, and free liquor to the farm hands hoping a few get their throats slit by the end of the season.

I also write a short acknowledgment form that the employee will sign and that confirms what happened. It makes clear that the employee was responsible and that the reason for the firing has been explained.

When I was fired from my first programming job, my boss took this approach. I was inexperienced and frankly quite shocked -- there had been no warnings, and the reason cited was laughable* -- so I ended up signing it. I've come to realize that I despise the practice. It asks a person who is feeling vulnerable to increase their own shame, doing nothing productive for either party. I always thought I was a careful person when it came to contracts and such, but this was a real lesson in keeping one's guard up even when taken by surprise.

* Namely, that I didn't deliver projects in a timely manner. Normally this would have been good cause, but instead of looking to more significant factors (bickering bosses making major changes to requirements on a daily basis, unstable platform for development, etc.) they considered the problem to be fundamentally attributable to my slow typing speed of ~70wpm.

What motivation does an employee, who is getting fired, have to sign the acknowledgment form?

I've heard (never seen it done, or worked for a place that did this) that they withhold a last paycheck, severance, whatever until you sign. Probably not legal but it is pretty compelling at a very shocking time.

I'm pretty sure that, in order to get severance, you will often need to sign a release form of some kind. But withholding any pay for work done or unpaid vacation is illegal.

If a company has such poor ethics that they'd think about witholding a last paycheck, what makes you think signing is going to prevent it from happening anyways?

My suspicion was that they were bluffing. Again, this is all about 3-rd hand; never happened to me or someone I know.

Even such a bluff is ethically grey, and a dark shade at that.

They need these sort of things to cover their bases in case the real reason for firing you isn't something they'd want to explain to anyone outside the company.

(At least that was the case the one time I was fired.)

Oddly enough, many of the expectations listed are not at all desirable. The following, quoted from the article, got me into trouble at a workplace:

• Employees will try to increase productivity in operations whenever possible.

Big no-no when management does not want to learn or is afraid of being left behind. (I ended up cutting half of my work week by retweaking stuff.)

• Employees will use tools, jigs, and the facility in general in a manner that minimizes wear and maximizes utility and safety.

In some of my tweaks I heavily cut down on use of paper and electricity. Also a big no-no for some reason. (Again, mostly because the steps above required learning.)

• Employees will operate machines and tools in a safe manner at all times.

Ever been told to fix something and you don't think it's safe? I go with, "If it's so safe, why don't you put your hand in there?" That usually shuts them up and brings them back to a reality where worker safety is a concern.

• Employees are expected and encouraged to maintain clear and open communication with management about unsafe or inefficient situations in the shop.

Attempts at disclosing severe security issues landed a firewall between me and the president. To this day the issue is still not fixed at the branches where I did not work.

• Employees are expected to keep an accurate time sheet, broken down by job and activity. This time sheet will be used for production metrics as well as for payroll purposes.

This is an issue because then they would actually have to pay you for the overtime that you have been working. Ever been told to not include overtime hour work in your reports and only do it orally?

• Tardiness or absenteeism

This is my favourite. A manager would often intercept me at a strategic location where he had arranged a clock to be set fifteen minutes AHEAD and where I would be told I was late. I had great fun choosing implausible alternate paths as he would try to do this regularly.

• Falsification of time and/or job time sheets

Now this one is why I actually quit. They regularly wanted me to cut an hour here and there off of the 'grunt' workers timesheets. (Archaic timesheet system written in a computer language you have never heard of, guaranteed.) I had issues with doing this.

• Behavior that is insulting, bothersome, or obnoxious to others

This post may qualify...

It's not quite clear what point you're trying to make here. This is a lot of text, and it's clear you intended to contribute to the discussion: can you clarify what you sought to contribute?

Not the poster you're replying to, but what I read it as was: many employers posts lists like this, but they are not necessarily "clear boundaries", because often they don't mean what you think the plain-English bullet point would mean. The most common one is that "safety is our #1 priority" type rules often have a very nuanced interpretation, with an unwritten subtext of, "but don't cause trouble by pointing out safety problems".

On the other hand, if the goal is to cover your ass, then broad rules that are somewhat ignored at management's discretion may be a feature rather than a bug.

Someone could use the article as a guide for what not to do in an attempt to increase job security. I was trying to illustrate that may not be always applicable. Some discretion gauging your work environment trumps the article.

(And it was a cathartic counterpoint. This guy sounds like a great employer.)

I think your employer was probably an exception, and most employers are more similar to the NYTimes author.

If most employers were making the outrageous demands the article author does, I'd perpetually be out of work.

Fairly obviously, he's complaining that he followed some of the rules listed on the linked page out of his own accord, and was penalized for that.

That you've worked in unethical businesses that flout the ideas behind these rules does not make the concept of the rules a bad thing. It's like saying we shouldn't have murder laws because people still get murdered.

I completely concur with you. But the rules for an employer to judge his/her employees are not the rules by which an employee should judge himself.

In my limited experience, businesses seem to be about 50/50 for some sort of conscience versus amoral/immoral. (And amoral is fine if lawful.)

The best teams I've ever worked for had this set of common traits:

1) On the offer day, potential employees were told there were high expectations and no fixed rules to govern what that meant. There was leniency in some cases, but manager/supervisor judgement was the only rule that mattered. No handbooks or rule sets.

2) All new team members were automatically assumed to be terminated within a month or so. This was usually true. Any new employee that didn't pull their weight, sat around waiting for someone to tell them what to do, or lied in any way was terminated.

3) Human mistakes (fat fingers, brain farts, etc.) were reprimanded internally but covered, responsibility-wise, by the manager or supervisor externally. (I got this treatment at least once a year...)

4) Repeated or dumb mistakes meant being terminated, usually within the same business day. (I saw this happen many times. Not fun but then again they were dumb or repeated mistakes.)

5) Lots of communication within the team. Supervisors and managers were always available or actively participating in the projects.

In other words, there were high expectations and they were strictly enforced, with nowhere to hide mistakes or divert responsibility. Or, more bluntly, "we want to work with adults, not children".

Sounds harsh perhaps, but these were the best teams I've ever worked for and no one who stayed for more than 6 months felt used, abused, or anything other than lucky to be working with fine people. When long-time employees left, it was to start their own businesses or go back to school and there were always a few tears in the parting days.

Now, if you read in some book or learned in a training course that you need to cover your butt legally at all times, give everyone plenty of chances to do the right thing, and take everybody's situation into consideration before taking disciplinary action, your teams are going to start sucking. Why? Because all of those things are the opposite of management. Those things are what you do to avoid management.

This whole article, to me, says "boy, it'd be so much easier to run this business if I didn't have to actually run this business". Here's a hint: If your strategy for managing a team or community or whatever is "people should do the right thing and we should give them every opportunity to do that", then your team's problems aren't actually your team's problems.

> 3) Human mistakes (fat fingers, brain farts, etc.) were reprimanded internally but covered, responsibility-wise, by the manager or supervisor externally. (I got this treatment at least once a year...)

I don't understand why you would reprimand people for making human mistakes. The only thing it does is encourage people not to report their mistakes. A better response, in my opinion, would be to look at circumstances of the mistake, and build tools that make the mistake much harder to make. The VP of Ops at my company wrote more about our philosophy here: http://codeascraft.etsy.com/2012/05/22/blameless-postmortems...

> 4) Repeated or dumb mistakes meant being terminated, usually within the same business day. (I saw this happen many times. Not fun but then again they were dumb or repeated mistakes.)

What's the difference between a dumb mistake (rule 4 applies) and a human one (rule 3 applies)? I guess I don't understand what this means.

Right, I didn't make that clear:

A human mistake comes from the fact that we are fallible humans with crappy memories and fat fingers and a working set of beliefs about the world that may be entirely wrong. Type something in wrong? Why didn't you verify or have someone else verify? Forget something or leave something out? Where's the checklist that you made for yourself to prevent that from happening? Make a bad assumption? Why assume at all when you could have verified?

You get the reprimand to be reminded that, while pushing the envelope is a good thing, there are real consequences to screwing up and not having all of the loose ends tied up. Saying "I didn't know" or "I didn't realize" is like saying "it's not my fault". In reality, you can't prevent these things from happening, but you better damn well try. That's what you get paid to do, in other words, to prevent your humanity from screwing up your hard work and brilliance.

Oh, I should have mentioned, that you're expected to yell at yourself more than your boss does. It really helps prevent having your boss do it for you!

But, like I mentioned in point 3), these are covered by management. No need to have them get in your review or affect your future at the company. You're human, it's OK, just be sure and learn from it.

A dumb mistake is one where you know better. Like you just decide out of the blue that you'll take that call from an old client during business hours, while your boss's boss is taking clients through the building. Or you were told not to do something, explicitly, but you decide that you'll do it anyway. Repeated mistakes are ones where you make the same mistake and didn't learn your lesson.

Hope that helps!

It does, but it's a lousy approach.

Some_Developer "m104, I screwed up the system because I pushed out the development build on production."

m104 "Well Some_Developer, next time you make a list or you're fired, you should be kicking yourself for this mistake"

That doesn't solve the problem of why Some_Developer was doing a build, why Some_Developer could have done a dev build on production and why there is no pre-production environment.

If you read the blog post (http://codeascraft.etsy.com/2012/05/22/blameless-postmortems... ) you'll see that there are two opposing views to human error. The side I stand rather firmly on is the idea that if ANY person can bring our system down with a few keystrokes or cause hours of pain then we have a VULNERABILITY in the system. I don't care about fat fingering, I don't need to remind people they are stupid, I don't need to give warnings or last chances. I don't care about WHO ore WHY I want to know HOW to fix it.

Reprimanding for human error achieves the opposite effect and is a common trait of weak/inexperienced management.

Ah, I can see why our opinions differ so much: you believe that human error can be mitigated or eliminated with the right systems, training, documentation, procedures, etc. In other words, you can build a system that, while being run and maintained and managed and extended by humans, will prevent human weakness from crippling the system. Within that view, blaming humans for human problems is counter productive, since you've got a better way to prevent failure.

I don't share that view, but I think I can tell you why it's working for you (now) and what sorts of issues you'll run into eventually and why:

You've got great people working for you. I don't need to tell you this, of course, but it's true. That's why you're having success. Great people are already preventing most screw-ups and blaming themselves for their own screw-ups, so there's no need to apply much in the way of corrective management. Adding tools and documentation and procedures to help everyone learn from this process is great, but your people would do fine without all of that. They're going to do their job well, in any case. That's what great people do.

But, not all of your people are great. You've got at least a few in there who have started to (or always have) felt that their issues and problems and screw-ups aren't actually their fault. They can hide now, fairly unseen amongst their coworkers. But they are there, regardless, causing small issues here and there which are mostly taken care of by their more responsible peers. More documentation, training, and system verification won't help them, unfortunately. These people either need to face the music or be terminated before they cause real damage. Identify them, if you can, before things get worse.

The worst employers I've worked for have all had a "blameless" culture. They didn't call it that, of course. What it meant was that if the cause of a problem or failure was difficult to face, the problem was blameless. I don't think any one of them started out that way, but weakness crept in and suddenly the company just couldn't pin blame where it needed to go, because (for what ever reason) that was uncomfortable.

And this is where the breakdown ultimately happens, and why: Management decides that it's soooo uncomfortable or legally risky to hold an employee's (or another manager's) feet to the fire that they come up with all sorts of rules and procedures and training and even philosophies to avoid having to, you know, actually manage the team. And the employees that don't like feeling personally responsible love it because they've got an out for their mistakes. "I didn't know!" "I didn't realize!" "No one told me!" "What was I supposed to do?!?" And management can go back and order their more responsible employees to "fix the system" so that their irresponsible employees don't cause as much damage next time.

And anyone who questions this is being judgmental or biased or seeking a vendetta or in some way not being the caring and compassionate soul that the company's "blameless" policy demands. Greater employees leave eventually or are fired for causing trouble. Eventually, the continued wave of failure overwhelms the company itself.

(Of the three employers I've worked for with this sort of environment, two no longer exist and one is cresting this year. Anecdotal, of course, but this is how my opinions on teams has been forged.)

Ok, so back to your blog post. You're telling the world and your employees that this is exactly the type of environment that you want to create and maintain! Not one of failure, of course, but one in which no one person can be, ultimately, responsible for failure. It would be so cool if this actually works, but think about what you're actually saying.

The great people in your team(s) don't need this sort of support and the irresponsible people will lap it up and ask for more. If you're not prepared to deal with the second set, they will drive the first set out and use company policy as their justification.

I agree with most of your post, except:

"2) All new team members were automatically assumed to be terminated within a month or so. This was usually true. Any new employee that didn't pull their weight, sat around waiting for someone to tell them what to do, or lied in any way was terminated."

Quite frankly this just sounds like whomever is in charge of hiring in these teams does a shit job of it. If, during an extended interview or round of interviews, a person cannot manage to get enough of an idea about how a candidate is going to mesh with the team that new hires often last less than 30 days, that person should not be hiring. If that person also does the firing as well they shouldn't be allowed near personnel management whatsoever, and their overall ability to lead should be questioned.

If the goal were to minimize the number of false positives, I would agree. But the managers of these teams had enough experience to know that they'd rather hire one person a month for a year and only keep one gem than to spend days or weeks trying to find that one gem and then agonize over firing them (knowing that the hiring process is slow and expensive) when the gem loses its shine.

Having done a fair bit of hiring myself, I can't even begin to reliably identify gems. If you know of a way or can explain how multiple rounds of interviews can do a reliable job of identifying them, I'm all ears. I can tell the stinkers right away I think, but gems, no that's really hard. The best candidates I've interviewed (resumes, work experience, knowledge testing, etc.) haven't had any better luck becoming great team members than those with a mediocre interviewing quality.

Cause here's the thing about gems: They only work within their setting and can be created, with some effort and skill, right out of raw material.

I disagree with what your idea of proper hiring apparently is; to hire and test out a lot of people often is better than to spend extra time finding the right person. In my experience, a work environment that is a revolving door of often failing new staff is a waste of everybody's time, whereas a work environment with more carefully selected new staff that sometimes fails is only a waste of management's time. Such are the burdens of management.

I agree. This sounds like bad/lazy management, and a broken on-boarding process.

As a consultant, I've grown used to working around bad on-boarding processes but most FTEs aren't used to jumping into existing teams without being given a lot of knowledge. I can imagine tons of great people washing out of such a team not for any good reason but just because they aren't used to self-service on-boarding.

This may depend on the specific job. In sales I could see this with some correct period.

Sales has its own high-risk / high-reward culture that goes along with the people who hunger for it as a career. Since most sales positions are paid on commission, failure to meet sales goals tends to result in a firing.

In my experience salespeople do need some ramp-up time (although it depends on inside/outside, size of sale, etc.), so 30 days may not be reasonable.

Commission vs. base actually argues for letting them stay LONGER. They self-select to leave if not making commission -- at a startup, that could be due to the product not being in the right place, though, so in a startup you often pay more base than at an established provider.

The other issue is that the cost of a "seat" for a salesperson, especially outside, can be really high, independent of production. It's pretty reasonable in enterprise for a great salesperson to be burning $500-1000/day in expenses (flying every couple of days, hotels, cars, meals with clients, etc.). Plus, potentially needing a sales engineer or engineering support from the development team, and of course the opportunity cost of giving them certain sales leads ("these leads are shit! give me the Glengarry leads!").

Enterprise sales is one of the reasons it sucks to do an Enterprise startup.

I don't think interviews, even with technical components, can tell you even with 75% certainty how a candidate is going to perform at the actual job. There are considerations like work ethic and how well someone can grok the actual issues the company faces (as opposed to a toy problem) that you just can't really know until they're actually doing the work (or not). Some people are really smart but turn out to be lazy. How do you weed them out in an interview?

"All new team members were automatically assumed to be terminated within a month or so. This was usually true."

Lovely! The organization must have been pathologically dysfunctional in some grave way if this really was the case.

I disagree and having gone through such systems I would again. Here's why.

Right out of college I applied for and got a temporary job at Google in their Adwords program. Going in I new it was a trial by fire. I interview well, and frankly the bar wasn't very high to get in. However I washed out after a few weeks because the job sucked. I hated it, it was boring and repetitive, and so I did a poor job. Most of what I was doing has since been automated.

I thought I wanted the job going in. They thought I had the potential to be a good employee. We were both wrong, but it took just over a month to figure that out.

For my last two jobs I really wanted to work for the company but, on paper, I wasn't qualified. Instead I offered to do an unpaid internship. I worked my ass off for both, learned a lot, and was offered fulltime positions. If I hadn't created a work-to-hire situation for myself I would never be where I am today.

In both situations the key factor was that I knew, going in, that I could wash out at any time. It was a tryout.

As I'm sure you'd agree, if I had the expectation of a guaranteed position, only to have to taken away one month in that would have been devastating.

I would encourage more people to expand their hiring pools with these kinds of programs. I feel it is more realistic (and honest) that it will take at least a month to get to know a person and for them to get to know a job to see if there is a reasonable fit.

The parent post said that "all new team members" were subject to this. It's fine if you're willing to bring on candidates you aren't sure about on a temporary basis, but you're just going to send a lot of good candidates elsewhere if your blanket policy is "you will be terminated after a month by default". In particular, as other commenters have pointed out, you will be filtering out lots of good candidates who currently have stable jobs, but might be interested in your organization if not for the (justified or not) perceived risk of being fired for no reason.

It's not one organization, it's the commonality I've noticed from three of the ten that I've worked for that had fantastic teams. The other seven have had wildly different measures and procedures for employees, but each with worse results.

Interesting. Any thoughts on trying out potential new hires as interns or contractors first?

I think this kinda stuff always creates a two-tiered team, so it shouldn't be relied on as a way to hedge anything. You get the A-team/"our people" and the B-team/"their people" and right from the start everyone knows this. Then there's differences in pay, benefits, and expectations, etc. In other words, to use interns or contractors as a potential employee filtering method, to me, just sucks. I haven't seen that work well.

But, but, but! If you're looking to give people a chance to learn and expand, with no future obligations, internships are definitely the way to go. The key point being: an intern that doesn't turn into an employee is not a failure.

Take someone who doesn't even know what they can do and put them with a great team, part time, with real responsibilities, and with the idea that they're there to help out and learn and see if anything happens. Usually, it won't. If it does, great. If they become a future employee, excellent! My career was built from this, but it requires an employer that's willing to take a risk.

sounds like gladiator school...


I want to work with a team where I'm motivated intrisically to do so; not because I know if I don't hit number X or Y I'm going to be terminated immediately. This may work for some people, but I couldn't handle having that over my head.

Why the hell would I want to pay the job switching costs to work at that company when they have an itchy trigger finger, especially if I'm doing pretty well where I am already?

That's a really good point and I think that, for the employees who didn't last more than six months (or were terminated right away), this was a bitter experience. In other words: if you, as an employee or employer, are looking for more of a committed relationship, I think the points I made aren't going to help at all and probably seem distasteful.

If you're looking to maximize the team's value and effectiveness, though, I've seen those points work, consistently, in a variety of environments. And I have no hard feelings about it. "It's business", as they say.

Your problem is that the company can get a reputation as a revolving door. Which over time means any good programmer in the know is not even going to apply. Why take the risk? There's no guarantee to me as a candidate that your company is firing people for the right reasons and not because you're expecting too much, or something illegal, or because I don't like the cubs vs sox.

After a while the quality of your pool is going to drop. Which is just going to reinforce your belief that most employees don't work out after a few months.

Exactly. Nobody I know would ever want to take the risk of working at a place like that.

Especially with the Dunning-Kruger effect: the best (e.g.) programmers tend to underrate their skills, and will not be motivated to apply to a place like that for fear they will be fired.

My points are based on the commonalities of the three great teams I've worked for at ten different employers. It's not one company, just a set of observations.

And they weren't all IT/software/web companies, either. One was the best IT team that I've worked with, period, at a non-IT company no less. Another was a fairly well-known restaurant chain. The third was a small startup-ish design company.

You are absolutely right about the reputation thing. You get that reputation for firing people, especially from the fired. But when you talk with the people that do or did work there for any length of time and see that, when the time comes, leaving will be difficult or was difficult, it all makes sense. The team manager wanted a great team that had great output and nothing less. And there was never any pressure to do the wrong things, illegal things, or base decisions on personal whims. That kinda stuff doesn't happen very easily with a room full of responsible adults, knowing that today may be their last if they screw up.

So I'm not saying there's no drawbacks to the points I listed, but I think they do work out overwhelmingly on the positive side.

Right, not to say that they weren't "great" teams. But do you have any evidence/numbers to show the rest of us "why" they were "great" - if for nothing else, than for perspective. I could tell you my high school stint at McDonald's was the greatest team I ever worked with - but I can't provide anything other than anecdotal evidence to support my claim (edit: actually, McDonald's is one of the most successful corporations on the planet - which proves my point, right? - right). I guess the question, in other words, is why should we care about your opinion?

I can attest to this.

There were a few fields of contract work in the 1990s for which a number of companies were always hiring. They clearly didn't have the headcount or growth rate to account for this, and scuttlebutt pretty quickly got around that they were simply chewing through candidates.

Turns out that the base talent pool was rather smaller than they may have presumed, and numerous top talent I was aware of quickly learned to steer clear of them.

Different circumstances might make for different strategies, but in my experience, making an investment in your hires sends a strong positive signal. Yes, firing is occasionally necessary, but IMO it represents a failure on both sides.

Or do this openly and call it "contract to hire". Both sides can call it off with no regrets.

The best teams I've worked for had this set of common traits:

1) A shared goal and a leader that maintained focus.

2) Baggage checked at the door.

3) Adequate resources and skills.

4) Good humor.

Nobody ever had to get fired.

Excellent, I'm glad that's been your experience. Mine hasn't been like that and I've waded through too many everyone's-so-friendly-and-getting-nothing-done-and-always-stressed teams with weak leadership and low standards. I'm hoping that your experience is more typical than mine!

It's not typical. But when it's not, lack of #1 and sometimes #2 is the key missing ingredient, not an aggressive churn through new hires until the perfect combination of employees is found.

> if you [...] take everybody's situation into consideration before taking disciplinary action, your teams are going to start sucking.

So if some guy's wife is diagnosed with cancer and he gets a bit distracted at work, you'd just boot him out and drop their health insurance?

Apparently in 'we want to work with adults, not children', they believe that adults have no empathy for people in life stress.

> All new team members were automatically assumed to be terminated within a month or so.

Screw that. Seriously.

I've worked under a cloud like that, wound up doing great, but I will never do that again.

The word that popped into my head when I read the OP was "bullying".

A few additional thoughts:

1. You're going to lose out on good people. GOOD people will see a toxic environment and run like hell. Who wants to work like that?

2. The people you manage to hire under "the cloud" may not be the ones that you want. I've seen people work in precarious situations, and I was not impressed with their capabilities or integrity. In the top echelon their work and ethics seemed to mirror the screwed-up environment they were in. In the ranks, moral was terrible and there was no loyalty, only fear.

My "cloud" was such that I felt I might be fired any day, for roughly a year. It turned out to be a phantom -- when I talked to our director a few years later she said, "You really took that seriously?"

Years later what I went through is still negatively affecting how I work. Don't get me wrong, things are going fine externally, but I could feel a whole lot better about the politics, the annual review madness, and interactions that involve managers.

It sucks to live in fear. Don't do this to your employees.

2) All new team members were automatically assumed to be terminated within a month or so. This was usually true. Any new employee that didn't pull their weight, sat around waiting for someone to tell them what to do, or lied in any way was terminated.

I've seen this more and more in places and I absolutely hate this. HATE.

Here's why.

#1. Some else mentioned "gladiator school" and I couldn't agree more. While funny, there is also quite a bit of truth to this. Programming et al is not sales and we should not treat it like sales. If someone isn't hitting their quota in sales, then sure, they can go (or stay for another quarter...who knows), but programming is different and we should have a different set of criteria for "not making the cut". But, by default, telling all new people "you will not be here past 30 days unless you are pulling your weight" is not the right way to motivate someone to do their best. Quite frankly, this is lazy management. EXTREMELY LAZY management (I'm saying this as a manager, fyi).

#2. I work for a multinational, so I also realize that most of these policies are in place where firing someone takes an act of god, but I also hate these policies b/c it takes so much out of the hands of the manager and removes responsibility from the manager. Bottom line, managers should be accountable for their employees and try to help them succeed. Policies like this make it too easy for below average managers to remain employed. And if there are few things I hate more than bad managers...we need many, many less bad managers.

#3. This is LAZY on the corporations part as well. I said it was bad management, but it is also bad corporate onboarding. The hard part of hiring someone, after finding a good fit, is bringing them up to speed. There are small things they need to know and, frankly, they SHOULD NOT HAVE TO ASK for, they should be told them on day 1. Policies like this make it all to easy to assume it is the new employees responsibility to find these things out. Hint, it is not.

What would I do? Well, as a former exec of a startup and now a high-level manager at a multinational, this is what I like:

#1. Have some sort of "welcome to the company" wiki page that has things like where to get the code, who to talk to about x, y and z, where to get access to various systems. What those systems are and why they exist. All high level stuff. Even more mundane things like communication channels and suggested software would be appropriate. Couple that with more mundane things like system setup, packages and versions to install (if needed).

This is all high level stuff. Almost anyone in the company would need these.

#2. for devs, how to setup the projects, get them running and showing positive signs they are working. All appropriate systems should be accessible and things like getting access to data, database etc etc should be something the person could walk through and do.

#3. Make sure the new employee knows they have a responsibility in this process to MAKE THE PROCESS BETTER for the next person. Meaning, as they go through the process and see something is wrong, missing or something else, they should fix it. This is the first positive contribution they are making. Inevitably, this happens and it is an easy and cost effective way to make sure the onboarding material is up to date and always improving.

#4. The manager must sit down, on day one and again at the end of the first week, and go over things like expectations, communication, reviews, how someone will be judged on performance etc etc. These are manager's responsibilities and set the tone for the company. If the manager appears disorganized, too busy or disinterested, imagine what the knew employee thinks? Take the time for the new employee...it is an investment...think of it that way.

#5. Give some clear goals for the first 30 days. You don't need to be concrete...but, point the person in the direction you want them to go and see if they start walking or running and see how/when they get to the point.

I could go on and on, but at the end of the day, I feel that lazy and poor management are a real problem and this point is an indication of that.

#3. Make sure the new employee knows they have a responsibility in this process to MAKE THE PROCESS BETTER for the next person. Meaning, as they go through the process and see something is wrong, missing or something else, they should fix it. This is the first positive contribution they are making. Inevitably, this happens and it is an easy and cost effective way to make sure the onboarding material is up to date and always improving.

This can be a lot harder and more stressful than it seems if the problems in the process are not something the new employee can actually fix and is expected to bug other people to make the necessary adjustments (gaining access to systems and following proper procedures wrt coding style and documentation, in particular). This forces the new employee to immediately become a pain in the ass rather than an actual contributor.

A mentor tasked with onboarding the new employee will be far better equipped to be responsible for tweaking the process. (Whoever actually pushes the buttons matters less than who owns the job in this case). Too often a new employee facing an onboarding problem will be stumped not even knowing the right question to ask. Leaving them to figure it out on their own is horribly inefficient.

I have seen this nearly every place I've worked and inevitably, it's months before the new employee actually acquires the mundane institutional knowledge, relationships, and perspective required to effect the necessary changes, meanwhile there were plenty of other options for worthwhile contribution that don't involve fixing an onboarding process that should have been someone else's repsonsibility.

True, and I more meant things like

* db table named x no longer exists, new name is y * email setup didn't work anymore...I did x, y and z and it worked

That sort of thing. The overarching process, you are correct, and I didn't mean to impart that responsibility onto the new employee...more specific details they might find in the process of going over documentation etc.

Your 1, 2, and 3 would have saved me (and others) quite a lot of time in some places I've worked. It helps for new hires and (in a large company) transfers from other parts of the company. Sometimes it even saves long-time employees a lot of effort when setting up a new machine or helping out on something they haven't touched in a while.

Well, good to know. I won't be joining your team. I make mistakes all the time, though seldomn the same one twice. I haven't deployed bugfree code into production in my life, but we strive to prevent the same kind of bug from occurring twice. All in all, I believe me and my colleagues do a very decent job, striving to prevent ourselves from making errors as much as possible. They stillnget made and it would be a great loss to have to fire someone over one.

2) All new team members were automatically assumed to be terminated within a month or so. This was usually true. Any new employee that didn't pull their weight, sat around waiting for someone to tell them what to do, or lied in any way was terminated.

If I were foolish enough to accept a position in which some stupendous mental giant of astronomical power made this terrifyingly brilliant announcement, I would quit after 30 days if by some accident I wasn't fired.

> All new team members were automatically assumed to be terminated within a month or so.

If I was ever hired in a place with that kind of assumed termination, I'd have to start job hunting again on day 1. Because, in my experience, it takes at least 2 weeks to get through most hiring processes. (Between sending in an application, waiting to hear back from the HR guy, interview 1, interview 2, technical interview, potentially a technical assignment, and then overhead of coordinating everyone's schedules, AND waiting to hear back on each stage of the journey).

And you do that dance (or part of that dance) 3 or 4 times during that month, which having this full time job.

It would be even worse if, while I had this 30 day assumed termination job, that I got an interview with one of these "new hiring practice" companies. You know the ones: "We want to contract you in for a week to see if it works out", or "Can you complete a 30 hour programming assignment for us?"

Even something as simple as, "We'd like a series of in face, 4 hour long interviews with you during business hours" makes you look bad to the job you have-but-may-not-be-retained-in.

Because now you have to make some excuse why you can't show up to a job you know you'll (probably) be fired from, but that very action could be the thing is probably going to be noted on your record, "Brilliant guy, and we'd love to have him, but he missed 4 afternoons because of personal reasons - he obviously is undependable, do not retain."

I would classify all five items as a work, team, and personality fit. You worked well in that environment because it fit with what you expected of yourself and others. The people who left, or were fired, did not fit as well. At the end of the day, the fit is more important than any list.

This is really interesting. I know a few other places with up or out cultures and that tends to leave only high performers, though that's usually after 2 years, not 1 month!

I'm not sure if a 1 month up or out is causal to a good company, or just coincidence, but thanks for sharing.

I'm surprised so many people are balking at the "incompetent until proven otherwise" clause, especially with the clarifying reasons you listed. When I read that I thought it was a great policy. I've worked at a few places where we hired people that didn't work out, but nobody would step up and fire them. It was a horrible situation, because we had to keep trying to work with incompetents and dead weights who either couldn't or wouldn't do their jobs and usually made our jobs a lot harder. It was awful for morale.

What is the problem with terminating people who aren't pulling their weight? A month seems like enough time to figure out someone's M.O.

That article gave me cancer. It seems like it wants to be different than other businesses but is not.

As soon as you say "And other reasons not listed here" you just made your list useless.

Having a huge book of rules makes it feel like an unwelcome, draconian workplace. Just hire smart, trust your workers and fire them when they don't meet obvious role expectations or act inappropriate.

This Paul is the antithesis of every great boss I've ever worked for. He writes a bunch of Barnum statements, any of which are subject to the sole interpretation of a despot and most of which are broad enough to cover almost any behaviour.

It's an entirely negative framing of people management and defines a corporate culture of fear. I'd never sign up for it, but then again, I've always had the luxury of choosing my employer.

Moreover, firing on this kind of basis is knucklehead stuff. It's easy. You steel your heart, cite a rule and pull the trigger. If you want a challenge, trying making public sector jobs redundant. The resulting press coverage, union hardball and politicking will blow your mind.

"One of the hard lessons The Partner taught me is this: the health of the business is more important than the well being of any one employee."

What, really, is the purpose of your business? And what makes it more important than the well-being of an actual person?

I don't take issue with the firings recounted (well, at least the carefully-documented public reasons he provides), but what could make this statement true? I read it and can't find a charitable interpretation.

A business is made up of a number of actual persons. Firing one can significantly improve the well-being of the remaining actual persons. He even recounts this in the article, with the guy lying about his timesheeet causing such a problem with other employees that they say 'him or me' - it has to be pretty distressing before most people get to that stage.

An unhealthy business would result in layoffs for multiple employees, for one thing.

A business exists for the benefit of its customers, and so do the jobs at that business. The health of a good business is a reflection of how well it serves its customers--and I'd say the kind of business that is healthy despite failing its customers is not only probably evil, but more likely than not needs to fire a lot of people, starting at the top.

He doesn't mention the soft lesson The Partner taught him: the health and financial well-being of the executives is incomparably more important than the company and--not that this rises to the level of concern--the well-being of any one employee or the entire lot of them for that matter.

You read this and you never want to work for anyone, ever again. I am no peasant in your Feudal system.

Here here!

Why would an employee consent to being recorded and signing a piece of paper acknowledging the misbehavior? I certainly wouldn't, if only to irritate the person firing me.


I don't think low-level cabinet assemblers get severance when being fired for incompetence.

I'm sure that this stunt has been tried in the software industry too.

That's what the witness is for.

To hit the employee until he signs?

to make it irrelevant if s/he signs or not at the exit interview

exactly. I would laugh in my bosses face if they gave me something like this to sign.

This has some good points and the guy doesn't seem too arrogant or that he enjoyed letting people go. But, I just don't think I could ever write an article about firing people. Actually, maybe it's just the title that bothers me - but from what I understand, the author may not get to pick those for editorials.

Alternate titles...

Paul Downs: Dreadful Employer Paul Downs Cabinetmakers: The Dickensian Workshop Reborn!

We told the veterans to help the new people whenever they could, but none of the old heads really wanted to be bothered, particularly given that we keep track of everyone’s output and any time spent teaching new people would reduce the build total of the teacher.

You get what you measure.

One possible way to fix this is to have a fraction of the improvement of a new worker accrue to the teacher.

When you treat adults like this they will not like or respect you and will want you to fail. Any time this boss makes a mistake his employees will make him pay.

"Oh yeah we can't work this week because the boss told us to throw away our safety glasses. Yes, we saw the UPS truck run into the river that probably had the new safety glasses on them. But we are supposed to do what the boss says"

Not a hard rule or anything, but I tend the view the need to fire people as a failure of recruitment. The wrong person was hired. Smart clauses in contracts are pointless if you hire the wrong people. If you hire the right people, you don't need them.

If you fire well enough, you don't have to worry so much about recruitment. You can either fire well or hire well, ideally both, but it can't be neither.

Sounds like Paul spent a considerable amount of time focusing on negative things. While it's necessary for employers to protect themselves I hope an equivalent amount of time is spent on positive things. For example if Paul spent as much time on creative training videos for new employees as he did on filming termination meetings he would perhaps have a more lucrative business. It's the perpetual focus on the negative that's just lame.

So you're saying that creating a creative training video is as simple as propping a camera on a desk and hitting record?

You're right that creating a training video has a larger up-front cost than simply recording a meeting. However when the long-term effects are taken into account the trade off is probably favorable. Something like a training video that in theory helps the employees and makes them feel supported will probably pay off more for the business in terms of increased employee satisfaction than something shockingly negative and dissonant like video-taping an employee being fired.

A couple of problems with your comments. The first is that it's not an either/or, you can have both. The second is that recording the dismissal isn't going to cause that much of a problem when it comes to morale, because the person affected is no longer working there. Another issue is that recording the meeting protects both parties from later fabrications made by the other; the dismissed employee could make it a condition that a copy is given, or set up their own recording easily, given smartphones today.

Recording a meeting which involves emotional distress is not 'shockingly negative and dissonant'. It's wise for both parties, just like having a witness is. I was recently made redundant, and although we didn't record the meeting, my employer advised who their witness would be, and allowed me to choose one of my own. The idea is to have a more neutral record for backup than the two main parties at an emotional time, and a video recording assists just like having a witness does.

You're right you can have both. However I feel pretty strongly that filming dismissals will have a negative impact on company culture. Filming the meeting is humiliating. Current employees are aware of the practice and by not questioning it I think they'd feel complicit in the humiliation of departing co-workers. I think this would degrade the overall atmosphere. Indeed having witnesses is a good idea. And I'm all for employers and employees protecting themselves. However the protection doesn't need to be cruel.

So the people this guy fired were given expectations up front, and then clearly told why, by their boss, that things weren't working out? I wish I was given that luxury when I was let go from my last job...

"Nothing is more heartbreaking than realizing that a worker who is trying his hardest can’t cut it."

So true. I've had to fire a few people that met that criteria and it's really difficult to do.

In a startup situation, it might be advantageous to discontinue the full-time relationship but allow them to continue working part-time at their leisure (or according to some schedule) in exchange for continuing to vest their equity, but no cash.

That reads much like "but we can still be friends". Yeah, right.

actually i quite like this piece.

the hardest day as a first time manager i ever had was when i had to let someone go in a RIF. he had done nothing wrong other than be the last guy hired in the team. i hadn't been the best manager to him (i've since invested myself a lot of learning management), and so i felt like i doubly let him down.

letting people go is hard, for almost any reason, and i think this piece captures that. i don't agree with everything he writes (i'm a big fan of training and setting people up for success), but the two big highlights for me are holding people accountable to clear expectations of performance, and "him or me." while the latter sounds awful, like some jerk is putting the manager in the middle and forcing a choice, the fact is that the team and ultimately the company will suffer if problem employees persist.

management always seems like tyranny before you get into it, arbitrary and capricious. while we all see bad managers from time to time who reinforce that stereotype, good managers demonstrate the opposite, that management is anything but fickle tyranny, or even power. it's responsibility.

I find appalling the number of comments about how horrible this man must be to layout his expectations for employees. Obviously, he should just tell people to "do stuff" and pay them out of sheer gratitude that they might.

In my very mercenary heart, I extend the 30-day principle as a two way principle. If at any time I decide my employer/employee is irredeemably unsatisfactory, I consider it my duty to break it off.

The hard part is knowing when something is irredeemable and unsatisfactory. Having well defined responsibilities and expectations makes sure both sides know the parameter space. Communicating with the other guy is key, too. Looks like this fiend is doing both -- more power to him.

On the other hand, at-will employment == no need for a reason (or employee handbook). From Wikipedia:

"any hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work."


I'm not a lawyer, but, my gut feeling is that if you are in an at-will jurisdiction the easiest way to fire is to simply do a "I regret we have to let you go" firing with no explanations. Why do I say this? Because opening your mouth beyond that could open you up for liability and the labor department is as anti-business as can be.

I had a really bad experience with a sales guy I hired some time ago. The standard deal was 90 days probation. We signed a very detailed contract upon employment that spelled out the terms. The contract was authored by my attorney and was fully legal in California. The basics of it were that he would get an advance on commissions as part of his weekly pay.

This is common practice with sales people. In order to provide them with a minimum stable income you state their base pay and then negotiate an advance on future commissions. The idea is that once they start selling they pay you back for the advance. In this case, the advance was $1,000 per week. Put another way, he owed me $1,000 per week and had to pay it back out of future sales commission. It's a trust relationship: I give you money you have not earned trusting that you'll work hard to repay it and actually earn beyond that.

To clarify, this sales person was not getting paid $1,000 per week. His weekly paycheck included a base salary plus the $1,000 advance.

Well, he sold a net total of $0 in six months of employment. I should have let him go at the 90 day period but that would have been the holiday season and, back then, I was a sucker for not doing that to people with families. I've been on the receiving end of loosing my job at the end of the year and just didn't want to do that to others. Fucking sap I was.

I had a stern talk with him and wished him happy holidays.

Once back he didn't sell a thing for three more months. I let him go and gave him a full explanation as to why. I also did the math and figured out that he owed me nearly $26K in unearned commissions. Keep in mind, this was a loan, from me to him, based on the agreement that he would pay it back as he started to earn commissions from sales.

Again, being a fucking sap, I told him that I would simply not pay him his last two weeks and be done with it. That amounted to recovering just a few thousand dollars.

A couple of months later I find myself in a hearing at the Labor Board. Contract in hand, I assume that this is a done deal. I produced the signed multi-page contract. He admitted to knowing all about it and understanding the terms. I presented a balance sheet showing the math and that he owed me over twenty thousand dollars but was willing to call it even and move on. We would hear the decision within two weeks of the hearing.

Two weeks later I get a letter ordering me to pay him $5,000!

I consulted with my attorney. He said that we could go after the labor board for failing to honor a legally binding contract and win. However, he said, this is going to cost you far more than $5,000. Ten times that much, if you are lucky. "Pay the guy and move on". So I did and learned a few very valuable lessons.

This, BTW, to get a little political, is one of the ways votes are bought in this country. We hear of corrupt regimes in other countries. It's the same here, but with different techniques. In this case, the Democratic party ensures voter loyalty by playing games like this one (favoring labor, unions, government workers, etc.). That guy, the ace sales guy, will remember the extra five grand he got at my expense and will bend over backwards to support the party who got him that. The problem is that they don't understand (voters and party) that they are destroying jobs.

President Obama is a cool guy, but if someone from another planet were to draw conclusions based on his speeches they'd conclude that the only important people in the US are "teachers, police, fireman and construction workers", or, put another way "unions, unions, unions, and unions". Crock of shit.

Having a manual might be a good idea. An even better idea is to have a good relationship with your attorney. In some industries you will need him/her often. Thankfully this was a corner case for me. I've never had other issues with the people I've hired. Most professionals are exactly that, responsible and hard working pros. I am quite liberal with my relationship with those who work for me when we all behave as responsible pros. For example, one time I encouraged my marketing manager to take a paid week off to go see a band she loved in the UK. That paid week did not come out of her vacation time. I paid for it because she was doing a good job and thought it'd be nice to show my appreciation this way. I am happy to say that I have many examples like that.

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