BLUF: I would have fired my direct today if I were not leaving the company. I told my boss about what happened. Was this the right thing?

I have one direct. We have been doing one-on-ones, coaching, feedback, etc. for several months. He struggles technically with the requirements of the job. My opinion is that he does not have the skills needed to do the job, however I have been trying to coach him to improve.

I announced this week I am leaving the company, at the end of this month, for another opportunity.

During the course of the day, today, I found my direct working on a "project" that I specifically told him to put on hold until he is able to deliver a project goal statement with a description of the deliverable (a widget) and some tasks with deadlines for the internal customer. This came about because over the past several weeks of working on this "project" he has told me that the internal customer has not been able to provide him with any detail because they are not sure what they need. My direct, however has ordered parts to build something and had a "prototype" on his desk that he wanted to pull someone else in to complete the assembly on.

I gave him negative feedback on that. He tried to rationalize it. I told him again that he is not to work on the project until he has a goal statement with a deliverable and tasks, etc. He replied that he had it. I asked to see it. He then stated that he didn't have it anymore because he deleted it.

I gave him negative feedback for deleting company property: work done by him on company time for the benefit of the company = company property.

He then tried to start rationalizing that by saying he was cleaning up his old files and that because I told him not to work on that "project" he thought it should be deleted.

At this point I ended the conversation in a sort of shot across the bow. So this is where I would have fired him, if I wasn't leaving the company, for the following reasons; 1. He either did not do the work I assigned to him for this "project" and therefore lied to me about having done it. Or, 2. He deliberately destroyed company property (the product of his work) by deleting files for something I told him to simply stop working on until he could come up with a written project plan. Either of those I see as unethical behavior.

What I ended up doing was explaining the situation to my boss, so that he will have this knowledge of this direct when I leave the company later this month. I also told my boss, that if I wasn't leaving, I would have fired my direct today.

Was that the right thing to do?

N_Obi's picture

Dear Oakleys,

What would be the best for your successor? 

Is the employee hard to replace?

Perhaps you can arrange one more meeting with the direct. You write a memo of that meeting. The memo contains the both facts (1. and 2.). So your boss or your successor have a base to pick up the problem again later.

best regards and good luck



mattpalmer's picture

Whilst there isn't anywhere near enough information to say for sure if a firing is warranted in this particular instance, I'd like to raise issue with the idea that you're unable to fire someone just because you're leaving.  Part of executing your duties as a manager is to identify (and act upon) situations where termination is appropriate, and you don't get to abdicate any part of your duties until you've *actually* left the company.  If you've been working on improving someone's performance over a period of time, and the deadline/final decision point happens to coincide with your own departure, then I believe you'd be fully justified in completing that task before you left.

In fact, in many ways, doing that would be a great service to the company -- any (good) manager who replaces you would have to start all over again with collecting the evidence to demonstrate the justification for terminating a troublesome direct, which would cost the company even more time and money.

nanzermd's picture

I have to agree with the previous post.  Until you actually leave the company, you are still the manager.  If you are acting ethically, then the company's best interests are the priority in this situation, and you should do what is best for the company regardless of where you will be a month from now.  If you can justify terminating an employee, you should do it for the good of the company.

Is this employee really going to change in the next month to make things any better for your replacement?  The past performance you have expressed seem to indicate otherwise.

markbyantaylor's picture

In an echo of the above two - I would add that it reflects badly on you when your replacement comes in.  They will have an impression of your capabilities based on what you left behind.  Their impression - good or bad, will overtime, colour the impression your previous collegues have of you.  This may come bit you in years to come when you need one of them.

A private conversation with your boss however will not help.

I can't comment on if the individual should be fired or not from the information.  I would however say that you should be following the process.

In most companies this will be a discipinary meeting with the employee and HR (but follow the relevant for yur company).  The important thing (regardless of the outcome) is that it is documented currectly.

I'm a little uncomfortable with leaving your replacement a staff "cheat-sheet" - especially if it is just your opinion.  The findings & outcome of a HR discipinary however becomes fact.

Good luck with the new role, Mark