is it okay to fire someone close to Christmas?

A reader writes:

I have an employee who has performance issues that are well documented. In fact, he has been slated for termination several times and, in each instance, managed to convince a former manager that he should be allowed to retain his position. However, after making a major mistake which could cost us a large client, the time has come to part ways.

Given that we are just two weeks short of Christmas, I am curious as to how other individuals and organizations have handled such a situation? Do you terminate immediately, wait until after the holidays, or wait until the new year? In addition to doing what is right by this individual, we obviously don’t want to have any adverse affect on morale by terminating someone on Christmas Eve. Real life experiences would be appreciated. Thanks.

Here’s my take on it:

If keeping him on a few more weeks would cause harm to your business (i.e., he’ll cause real damage in that amount of time), then you need to act now. (And be generous with the severance if you can.)

But otherwise, deal with it for a couple of weeks more and do it right after the holidays. Reasons for this:

* Compassion. You don’t want to be someone who fires people right before Christmas, as long as you can avoid it without real harm.

* Morale of others. You don’t want your other employees to conclude that you’re a jerk who fires people right before Christmas.

By the way, this is yet one more good reason not to put this stuff off (which it sounds like was allowed to happen here). If you put it off rather than acting when you know you should, then you sometimes run into a situation which ends up making it harder to terminate — and not just the holidays. Imagine if you’d put it off and then he happened to file a claim for FMLA or ADA accommodation (unrelated to the performance issues) just as you were about to act. You could still proceed, of course, but now you’d have a sticky legal landmine to navigate, and your risk factor would go way up. So when you know you need to terminate, don’t drag it out.

And yes, most managers, being human, like to give people additional chances and like to avoid telling people that they’re not meeting our needs. And as a result, many managers prolong these situations when they shouldn’t. But you’ve got to do it, so resolve to resolve this as soon as the holidays are over.

P.S. I do not advocate this approach for relationship break-ups! If you’re waiting to break up with someone until the new year, stop leading them on and deal with it now.

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. Rejected*

    It’s never a great time to fire somebody, but thanks for your take on it AAM. I got my lay off notice around this time last year – although we did have to work until March, we still found out around Christmas. Some people on the team thought we were being conference called so the higher ups could wish us a ‘Happy Holidays’ all at once. Ha! I guess they thought it was better if they let us know sooner rather than later so we could get the ball rolling on our job hunt. But still, it sucked.

    When I was laid off by my new company a few months ago (the company went under) my boss was very unprofessional about it and even told me how he laid off the others and how some of them cried. He also recalled a time when he fired somebody the day before Christmas and how proud he was of that. I was actually happy to not have to work for him anymore.

    1. fposte*

      It’d be nice to think he was being a jerk just so you’d feel better about having to leave, but that’s probably stretching it.

      1. Rejected*

        I think it’s the company culture…well, it was a startup after all, things do go south and it’s risky working for them. But I did expect a bit of professionalism. I forgot to mention that I was laid off at a mutual friend’s wedding, in front of said friends and my family, on the dance floor of all places, after he had made small talk the whole night. Something along the lines of: “Guess what, we’re shutting down and you’re without a job now!”

    2. Chris*

      I (and others) got one of those two days before Thanksgiving a few years back. They were nice about it with a severance package and a letter of recommendation. The company went completely under a few months after that. Anyway, that was the longest time of my life. Outside of retail, no one was hiring in my area until after the New Year when the budgets had the hiring money. I managed to keep busy by working on some projects while interviewing. I just had to wait it out for two months to see who would have the budget to hire.

  2. Tami*

    Another thing to consider is that if you truly have grounds to terminate, and you don’t do it right away, it may create a problem if you intend to dispute this person’s eligibility for unemployment benefits. Basically, the unemployment office often feels that if you really do have reasonable cause to terminate, then you have cause and should do it immediately. By not doing so, they begin to doubt your reasoning, and begin to wonder “were they really that bad if they didn’t terminate immediately?”

    Now, with that being said, it know it sounds grinchy to talk about denying someone’s unemployment benefits when you terminate them around Christmas. However, unemployment is a tax paid by the employer, and every claim has the potential to increase that tax and impact the employer’s competitiveness in the marketplace. Therefore, supplying information that may cause someone’s unemployment benefits to be denied is something that often needs to be considered since it may impact the bottom-line. Just another reason to not prolong this any longer than necessary.

    Still, I am as hard-nosed as they come and I don’t think I could try to get someone’s unemployment benefits denied at this time of year…unless what they did was REALLY, REALLY bad.

  3. Joey*

    I have one of those right now and I’m waiting even though it’s costing me a few more weeks in salary. Employees dont forget the boss that fires someone right before christmas. That story would be around a long time. The only way I’d do it immediately is if it was for stealing or some other kind of misconduct. I give severance commiserate with tenure. Tight with the new and progressively generous with tenure.

  4. Anonymous*

    If I was to be fired for sure, and it was known now but they held it off until after Christmas, I would be even more devastated. A lot of people spend additional money around the holidays for travel and gifts, and knowing that your source of income is about to be cut off might let you save $1000 that you otherwise would have spent.

    I personally think it’s disingenuous to cause someone else to suffer so that you can “feel good” about yourself for not having fired them before a holiday.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I hear that side of it too, but hopefully any manager who knows she’s about to fire someone has given that person very clear warnings that their job is in jeopardy, so the ultimate firing isn’t coming as a surprise, and the person is able to start making decisions based on seeing the writing on the wall. (The exceptions to this are things that would cause a firing without warning, like embezzling money or punching a coworker — but those aren’t ones you should wait until after the holidays for anyway.)

      Of course, not all managers are good managers — far from it. But that’s how it should be working. (And at larger companies, they’re often required to follow a progressive discipline policy, with warnings, whether they want to or not.)

    2. Under Stand*

      I agree. When my industry had the bottom fall out at the end of 2008, the owner waited until the first week of the new year to let us know that we were being laid off. If he had told me BEFORE the holiday, even if it made him feel better by not actually enforcing it until the new year, then I could have looked for a job back home where we were just at. Instead I had to hunt for a job in a recessed industry in a state that I hate working in.

      1. Joey*

        Layoffs are different because they can affect almost anyone. Since employees have no way of knowing if they’re going to be affected by layoffs employers should give them as much notice as possible. Underperformers should see a term coming a mile away.

      2. Anonymous*

        I have to echo this post since hubby has been laid off twice in such circumstances: firstly Jan 3rd… they knew before christmas and didn’t tell the two people involved until January. Thank goodness that we’d already kept the Christmas budget tight and hadn’t overspent!

        Secondly, the day after he got back from our honeymoon. They’d again known the month before (and possibly much longer than that) and held off until after the wedding. Again, thank goodness we hadn’t spent money from the next paycheck!

    3. Charles*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. I could see managment holding off on telling folks if management is not sure about pending lay-offs; but it is always better, no matter how painful, it let folks know ASAP.

      It didn’t happen at Christmas; but several years ago when I was laid-off, two of my co-workers (a husband and wife) had just closed on a new house, then wam! we were all laid off the next week. I’m not saying that management could have done something about it; but if one of the higher ups had known what was coming down it would have been nice to pull one of them aside and say simply “hold off on buying that house.” And given the professionalism of these two neither of them would have blab about anything until after everyone was offically notified.

  5. Brittany*

    It sucks. It really, really sucks. I had a temp position that I was working at in 2009, and they were waffling about whether or not they planned to keep me on. It go so dragged out that I finally just wanted a straight answer from them, which ended up being a no anyway since I did not have the full extent of the experience they were looking for. They told me this the day of the holiday party and then said, “Oh but still come to the holiday party!” No thanks…I was too busy bawling my eyes out about how I was going to find yet another job and pay down my credit card bill I had been living off of and bought Christmas presents on.

    Like Alison said, if you have to do it before Christmas, make the severance good.

    1. Anonymous*

      I hate to sound like a jerk, but if you’re broke, you shouldn’t be racking up credit cards bills just to buy Christmas presents. If people can’t understand that you can’t afford it, then they aren’t worth the gift in the first place.

      1. Brittany*

        Just because I know you didn’t bother to read, I was also using my credit card to make ends meet. I was making $14 an hour since it was a temp job in the city with absolutely no benefits, paying rent, buying groceries, paying for public transit and paying bills. Before that I was making $180 a week on unemployment. I have a 4 year degree from a great college in Boston and could not find work anywhere. So yes, you sound like a jerk for judging me for trying to buy my family Christmas presents with what little money I could scrounge up from everything else I was paying for.

        1. Anonymous*

          I understand that you’re stressed and in a crappy situation, and you’re coming off as very defensive so I feel like I’m taking a bit of a risk giving you advice, but here it is:

          I was in a very similar situation to yours in terms of money/employment very recently. I worked hard both professionaly and academically throughout my 4 years of University at a highly ranked school in Canada. I did everything I could to network, set myself apart from other people in my graduating year, and save from my part-time job to make sure I had a cushion for when I was graduated and unemployed.

          The reality is, the job market is terrible right now. It’s even worse if you’re looking for an entry level position with a bachelor’s degree. These position either don’t exist, or, as I found out from many application follow-ups, they are being applied to by people with Masters degrees or years of experience. I eventually found a job in my field (non-profit), however I had to move across the country (3,000 miles to be exact) and take a significantly lower rate of pay then what I had anticipated right out of school.

          Even now, with employment and a strict budget, I’m having trouble setting aside money for fun things and Christmas presents (since my flight home, which would normaly cost $600 round trip, ended up being over $1000 in the Christmas season). Instead of purchasing gifts for family members I have made them aware of my situation and offered instead to give presents in the form of my time. This includes things like giving my very busy mother a weekend off where I will be taking care of all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry that my 6 person household produces when we’re all home for the holidays. Is it the same as getting her the ereader she desperately wants? No, it’s not, but what I’ve found is that my parents/friends/family would much rather see me save my money to contribute to a successful future then receive fancy presents. And if people value gifts more then your well-being (especially in financially precarious times) then you may want to evaluate who you’re connecting yourself to.

          Finally, to end this long-winded comment, take a minute to feel sorry for yourself then move on. The job market sucks for everyone right now so you’re probably not going to receive much sympathy. Push the pride aside and look at opportunities you may consider to be “below” you while you figure out something permanent. Find a strong money management system and stick to it, you may have to cut out something you love (I miss starbucks with all my heart) but in the long term you’ll be much happier to see your bank account in the positive. And here’s the best advice I can give: stop living on credit and limit yourself to a cash-only diet! Never put anything on a credit card unless you know you’ll have the money to pay it off by the time the bill arrives.

          Again, I’m not an expert, but this advice is based off my own, similar experience.

          1. Anonymous*

            Pretty sure she wasn’t looking for advice dude. Also, her post says this was back in 2009, one would think she is better off financially now. She was just commenting on the reality of the suckage of being fired or let go around the holidays and you’re turning it into a financial lesson.

            You’re from Canada. Enough said.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I thought her advice was very good, particularly around the idea that no one should put gifts on credit cards if they can’t pay it off immediately. Give gifts, but give free ones, like the ones described here! People who deserve to get a gift from you will understand.

          2. Anonymous*

            Just to clarify, the “Anonymous” from the second comment is different from the “Anonymous” in the first :)

            1. The Editor*

              And the second anonymous seems fairly prejudiced. Using “you’re from Canada” as a reason to discredit a person or their advice is, in a word, immature.

              The advice was sound. Wanted or not, it was sound.

              1. Anonymous*

                I think there’s now 3 “Anonymous” floating around:

                Jerk Anonymous (#1)
                Canadian Jerk Anonymous (#2)
                Prejudice Jerk Anonymous (#3)

                Oh, and this one makes #4- “Clarifying Anonymous” (not sure if I’ve earned the “Jerk” or not)

    2. Anonymous*

      This is more of a question then a comment, but if you’re a temp, are you entitled to severance pay?

      My understanding of temp positions is that once the time you were scheduled to temp for is up, the employer can choose to keep you, but if they don’t they don’t owe you anything. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Generally temps don’t get severance pay since the employment is by its nature understood to be temporary. Severance is never required by law; it’s always up to the employer, so of course an employer could choose to do this differently, but it would be unusual.

  6. Julie*

    “P.S. I do not advocate this approach for relationship break-ups! If you’re waiting to break up with someone until the new year, stop leading them on and deal with it now.”

    I agree with this so much. When I was in school, I had a boyfriend who knew he wanted to break up with me as of late September, but put off telling me until after the December exams “so that I could focus on my schoolwork.” I could tell all semester something was wrong, but couldn’t get a straight answer out of him.

    Oh, and he broke up with me over instant-messenger. Just to add salt to the wound.

    To all AAM readers: don’t be that guy. (I know you won’t, because you’re all awesome, considerate people, but maybe some people you know aren’t and need the reminder.)

    1. Katya*

      Off topic of work issues but I’m in that awful situation right now where my boyfriend and I are breaking up but not until after Christmas. I thought about it for a month and tried to break up after Halloween. We ended up staying together another month but then I moved back home for December to take a seasonal position at my former job. But I’m searching for a full time job here right now and am going to stay here, so we’re just waiting until after Christmas to break up because we had promised we would be back together on Christmas to celebrate it together. It’s really the worst – this will be the most maudlin Christmas ever.

        1. Anonymous*

          My ex broke up with me by draining our joint bank account to run off and pursue a coworker (who couldn’t stand him and was mortified)….on Valentine’s Day. Such romance.
          Which was fine, because I am now happily remarried with children and consider what he did to be a favor.
          However, it would have been nice if that happened on a different day.

  7. Lesley*

    My dad just lost his job last week, and while it was a bummer to have it happen right before Christmas, he knew it was coming, knew his boss felt terrible about it, and understood that keeping him on any longer would have been bad for everyone. (He was a salesman drawing against commission–sales have been terrible–and drawing any longer would have severely dented his income next year even if sales picked up. Not to mention the money that his store was out by trying to keep him on.)
    I think keeping the employee on past Christmas might be good for the rest of the company, but not for the person getting fired. As Anonymous pointed out, people spend money during the holidays that they might not otherwise. Also, the person getting fired might suspect it’s coming, and if they hold off, he’ll think he’s in the clear.
    Another story: Two years ago, I was offered a job by my current company the first week in December, but they let me wait until after the holidays to give notice so I wouldn’t miss out on vacation time, holiday bonuses, etc. The poor young woman I replaced mentioned she was signing a lease for an apartment, went on a holiday trip, etc. All the while, they knew they were going to fire her and let her go ahead and spend that money when they could have given her ample notice that she was being let go. It really hurt her financially, and, since people knew about it, it hurt morale too.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That second story is about bad management though. They should have been talking to her about her performance problems and warning her that she could let go if she didn’t meet a higher bar. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when it happened.

      1. Lesley*

        True, it was bad management. Not a performance issue on my predecessor’s part though–she did well enough that the company rehired her in a different role a few months later. They just decided that they needed someone with a different skill set on the team. I think that might be why they bungled it so badly–there wasn’t anything about her performance, it was the job funtion itself that was the problem. Personally, I think they should have just told her that she was being structured out at the beginning of the year. She would have had a month’s notice. The common theory is that they didn’t because of the holidays.

      2. Under Stand*

        But sometimes the poor performer is given every indication there job is on the line and they just do it anyway. I remember one time we had an employee who was not working out. Our ‘AXE’ manager had told him that if his performance did not improve that he would be let go. He was looking at purchasing a vehicle. No less than a half dozen people, including that manager, told him that it probably was not a good idea because his job was in jeopardy. You guessed it. The next day here he comes in with the new vehicle. That was the same day that he was being fired . He actually said “You should have told me that I was being fired, I wouldn’t have bought the car”. The employee could not believe he would be fired even when all of us were doing everything but waving the pink slip at him.

        1. Anon*

          Exactly. A couple of years ago a coworker was fired for attendance issues. My company have a very clearly stated attendance policy, a clearly stated progessive, disciplinary process and a reputation for firing for attendance even before performance. Keeping all of this in mind, my coworker was on a final warning and was still upset to be fired after being late one time too many. Even more mind boggling were all the other people who were upset on her behalf as well. Crazy.

    2. Lee L*

      Recently had a similar situation happen to me. I was laid off 2 weeks after moving into our new house. The same person who made the decision was also the same person who sent a letter to my mortgage company verifying employment.

      1. Suz*

        The exact same thing happened to me. But I didn’t hold it against my boss. I can’t expect him to give me a secret heads-up about the layoffs and not tell the rest of the staff. And I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his shoes either. His position was eliminated in the same round of layoffs. I still consider him one of the best bosses I ever had.

  8. Mike D.*

    As far as team morale is concernred I’ve found that if the rest of team is aware of the lack of performance in an employee (sometimes it’s obvious to everyone) and that employee is allowed to stay that hurts morale. If this person deserves to be fired, and others know that, they probably won’t be hurt that they were let go so close to a holiday. I can say that there’s someone I know of that, if fired today, the rest of the group wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Usually, though, if the rest of the team knows about the problems, it’s gone on long enough that the person probably should have been fired before the holidays rolled around anyway. And if they weren’t, waiting a couple of extra weeks won’t matter so much.

  9. Anonymous*

    I work for a bankrupted company, in the latter of Chapter 11 now, and the union just had a vote on whether to take a cut in pay or force the company to sell. Union member voted to take the pay cut. I didn’t realize this pay cut was effective immediately (in other words, this week!). I’m super po-ed that the company would give cuts just weeks before Christmas while people were depending on that money for gifts, travel, or whatever they needed for the holidays. I was thinking they’d wait until the end of the fiscal quarter, but nope. It’s on now.

    Granted I don’t know how much it helped the company, but to wait until Christmas to make a drastic change is wrong. Have some compassion.

      1. human*

        The alternative, presumably, is that none of them would have jobs. So the workers democratically decided they would rather take a pay cut than all lose their jobs. Why would he be upset with the union? If they didn’t have a union, this decision would have been completely out of their hands and the company could do whatever they wanted.

  10. Interviewer*

    Personally, if it’s that egregious, you shouldn’t be holding on that long – if nothing else, for everyone’s perception of the impact of the mistake. Other co-workers know what he did, and they think he got away with it since he’s still there. If I knew I had just screwed up royally, but after several days no one was coming to my desk with a stack of boxes – well, for every week that passes, I would relax and think “hey, I’m not getting fired, it must not have been that big a deal.”

    If I was the one getting fired, I’d want it before the holidays. I would *much* rather have Christmas off – far more time to spend with family and friends and do meaningful stuff and job hunt, rather than sweating out year-end in the office.

    If I’m his co-worker, I’d be concerned about it, but only if I was completely in the dark about what he’d done. You can manage that message with the right announcement to the staff, appropriately sympathetic, wishing him the best. Hopefully people read between the lines to know that it couldn’t be helped. If I knew about the mistake, I’d think, well, too bad for him, maybe he’s learned something important here.

    Middle ground – give him a final warning and ask him to use up some vacation time during the holidays while you both take some time to consider his future with the company. He’s not around to screw up anymore, and everyone else thinks he’s on vacation. Maybe he comes back to a first-thing-in-the-morning meeting with a severance offer on the table.

    No matter what time of the year, no matter what project was ongoing, my boss wouldn’t let a giant screwup affecting client work go a single day without being addressed promptly and with the appropriate level of disciplinary action. I will always respect that about her. She recognized that performance management was a priority.

    1. Dawn*

      “If I knew I had just screwed up royally, but after several days no one was coming to my desk with a stack of boxes – well, for every week that passes, I would relax and think “hey, I’m not getting fired, it must not have been that big a deal.””

      I agree 100%.

    2. Kim Stiens*

      I totally agree. I think that a huge mistake that loses a client warrants getting the person “off the floor,” so to speak. If you might wait anyway, just tell the person you’ll pay them through the end of the year, but that he needs to pack up his stuff and leave the office (though, since you’re still paying him, you should make it clear he needs to be available for transition related issues over the phone).

  11. Jeff*

    I will never forget my former boss letting someone go a week before Christmas. He practically bragged to me about it, and she was in *no way* in danger of causing any immediate harm to the company. I actually got a sick feeling in my gut because before that happened, I had actually respected my boss a great deal. Thankfully, I resolved to move on, as I did not want to work for someone who lacked even this most basic compassion.

  12. Joy*

    Thanks for clearing up that this doesn’t apply to relationships ;)

    As far as letting people know before the holidays so they won’t overspend … too late – it’s already the holidays. Christmas is … tomorrow. So, maybe letting them know to curb spending would have been an option if this question was from December 1. Ijs…

  13. AGirlNamedMe*

    I’ve been on both sides of this….

    I worked in a small office that had been merged with another larger office and I didn’t get along with the owner of the other company . I was terminated the day before Thanksgiving. There was absolutely no reason to do it the way they did it. It was a job I loved and been very successful at before the merge. I vowed that I’d never do the same thing to anyone.

    Then a whole lot of years later, I was put in a really bad spot by an employee who we were going to let go right after the holidays. The week before Christmas, he showed up late and was warned, showed up late again and was warned, showed up late again and was terminated. He said he expected it and I honestly think it was harder on me than it was on him.

    So. As a general rule, I will not terminate someone at the end of the year, but I will if circumstances call for it.

    As for myself – it turns out that being fired from that job was the best thing for my career.

  14. itHappenedToMe*

    Many years ago I was fired from a job three days before Christmas. I had a sense it was coming so I wasn’t too torn up about it. What I will always remember is the manager saying to me “Now I have no one work New Year’s Eve”.

        1. Dawn*

          I’m not being quick. I tend to use “he” when I don’t know if it’s a man or a woman. Trust me, I know lots of women who are asses.

  15. Anonymous*

    Oh man, I could totally see a completely evil manager throwing this lavish Christmas party and specifically inviting that employee, and work hard to make sure he came, and then as he’s handing out presents to everyone and asks they open it and when it gets to the trouble employee he opens up his gift and out pops a pink slip!

    “Merry Christmas!”

  16. OP*

    OP here:

    Thanks for the input. Upper Mgmt has decided to inform the worker during the course of his normal annual review (sometime between January 9-13) that he will be kept on staff for 30 days to wrap up and it is his job to find a job. I have seen this soft landing before and generally the worker packs up that day and takes the 30 days as severence.

    As I indicated, although there is no basis to believe that he doesn’t see this coming (since he has already been terminated twice and talked his way out of it), my experience is that virtually no one ever sees it coming and they are always surprised when it does. (Even when whey punch a co-worker.)

    “Gee, if I have done this before and been repeatedly warned, but I had no idea they would actually do it!”

    Thanks for the input.

  17. erin*

    In the two Christmases I’ve spent at my current job, someone has been fired 2 weeks before Christmas both years. This year, it was completely warranted and should have happened a lot sooner, but most of us felt like they could have just waited a few more weeks since management had already been dragging their feet about firing this person. Morale here is already pretty low, and no one wants to work at a place where the holidays become associated with people getting fired.

  18. Joey*

    Heres a quick story. At one of my old jobs in early december my old boss passed out an Xmas party invite to everyone except Kyle. The party was at the bosses lavish house with open bar so everyone looked forward to it. Kyle didn’t think anything of the innocent mistake and planned to attend, about two weeks later. On the day of we were all excited and brought some going out clothes to work so we could go straight from the office. Kyle had also arranged for his girlfriend to pick him up from work so they could drive one car home. On the Friday of the party, just before we closed the office Kyle got called in to the bosses office. He walked out with the saddest look I’d ever seen on his face. Our crappy boss fired Kyle just before the Xmas party, dressed up ready to go with his girlfriend waiting in the lobby. That was the worst boss I’ve ever had and the worst Xmas party I’ve ever been to. Because of that I’m probably overly careful about the actual day I have to fire anyone.

    1. Anonymous*

      I viewed a similar situation at a part-time job in university.

      I worked for a tour company and when we were all receiving our new jackets (the company uniform) at a training session one girl didn’t get one. She then received an email to her phone (with our boss in an office about two feet away) informing her that she was fired. (The reason for firing was also ridiculous, but I won’t get into that here) The poor girl then either had the option of making a scene leaving the training session or sitting through it and not drawing attention to herself. She chose to be classy, sit through the training and left without making a scene. She did take up legal action against the company, but I never heard her openly bad mouth them once (even though she certainly had the right to).

      1. khilde*

        Good for her. I think the self-respect she’ll have in the end is worth far more than the temporary satisfaction of throwing a fit (tempting as it may be!!)

  19. JJ in LA*


    I Googled getting fired before Christmas and I found this conversation ha.. Well…I just got let go this afternoon from a temp job. No warning nothing. “Performance issues” I was told from the agency which is baloney, I completed everything assigned and on time correctly. Should have known something wasn’t right when they hired me just off of a 30 minute phone conversation. From day 1 I felt like I did not fit in. Something they did not like about me in person, i don’t know. Anyway the hiring manager didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me in person, I was emailed. And I just had a Holiday dinner Wednesday with him and the team! They dropped a bomb on me and Christmas is next week.

    1. Anonymous*

      They fired you via email? Wow, that’s horrible. In my mind that’s even worse than being fired before Christmas. I hope you find a better place to work.

  20. JJ in LA*

    BTW this was only my second week! No major screw ups, no stealing or punching another employee ;-) just doing what i was assigned to do…. the only thing I can think of is the position called for knowledge of a proprietary system which I did not have (they were aware before bringing me on board). As of this week I was still ramping up on it and I was told that was Ok since it takes 1 week to train and more time to learn. Was I not quick enough? Were their expectations skewed? Was it simply mismatched skillset versus job requirements? The HR consultant I spoke to there right before I left said it sounded like they (hiring manager) did not do their due diligence in seeking out the ‘perfect’ candidate they so wanted. If that’s the case, that’s pretty low to ‘test drive’ a person and them letting them go right before Christmas just because it finally dawned on them ” oh maybe we need someone with X and X skills instead”. bah humbug argh.

  21. Tech Chic(k)*

    My company just fired someone yesterday. The woman was well liked and didn’t have a reputation as a slacker, but apparently there were performance issues that no-one knew about.

    It was ugly. She was completely blindsided by it. (Bad manager!) The story going around the office is that she couldn’t stop crying. Our office has a black hole firing policy – people go into the HR director’s office for a conversation, and then are showed straight out of the building. No goodbyes, no picking up personal belongings of any sort. They either ship them to you or escort you back in over the weekend to pick them up. They usually pull people’s photos off the picture wall the afternoon of the firing. This lady’s coat was left on her chair. When I got her laptop for the usual exit procedures, her personal email was still open.

    It was creepy and ugly. Managers, please don’t do that. Actually, please don’t use the black hole policy in general, but really, really don’t scare your entire office by doing it to someone well liked right before the holidays.

    1. Laura L*

      Ummm… what about her purse, wallet, car keys? Also, if it’s cold it’s ridiculous to not let her get her coat. Actually, it’s pretty ridiculous to not let people get personal belongings in general.

    2. Anonymous*

      That does seem ugly, but in the manager’s defense there may be a reason for this strategy. I was once involved in a firing of an employee who was probably a lot like this. She was the master of busy work. However, she was terrible at what she was hired for. She was also VERY unstable and would make disturbing comments at meetings and disappear for days at a time. She was also known to have several ridiculous grudges against staff. After speaking with HR and security we became concerned about possible workplace violence. We were told to make the firing final and immediate. She was escorted out (security brought her keys and purse to her) and her belongings were mailed to her the next working day. I’m sure our actions looked quite harsh to those who did not understand the situation!

      1. Tech Chic(k)*

        Yeah, but with an unstable employee it makes sense. My company does this with *everyone*, regardless of the situation, even for layoffs. They think it’ll hurt morale if they let ex-employees see or talk to other employees. I think they’re hurting morale worse this way.

        (We had one employee where this approach may have been warranted. After being shown the door, he called the police in an attempt to get back to his desk. They still didn’t let him.)

        Laura, I assume someone grabbed her purse and cell phone for her. She may have been too upset to think about her coat at the time.

      2. Lee L*

        Could they not have waited until the end of the day? Hold her back for 5 mins after everyone is leaving, then there is no scene and she leaves with a shred of dignity.

        1. Natalie*

          Plus she probably has her purse and stuff together anyway, so it’s easy to grab everything if they want to march her out that second.

  22. Steve*

    we had a round of layoffs 2 mondays before christmas last year. Thought it would be ackward but it wasn’t. Actually, the guy who mentioned christmas presents was right – the guys who got cut (the few I talked to) had reaaallllyyyy relaxing holidays, etc., sounded really happy. I guess they got over the bad feelings quick enough to enjoy the holidays, and not having to worry about work, recharged their batteries

    1. anon-2*

      Depends on the circumstances. If you’re a group of young people who have no families to support, no mortgages to pay, no mouths to feed — then, yeah, you can relax if you get fired.

      For most people, losing their income in this economy – where finding another job may take months or require career changes – it’s not so “relaxing”.

      1. Anon*

        Young people still have rent, bills and groceries to buy. Not all of us have the luxury of “relaxing” or living with our parents.

  23. Savvy Working Gal*

    A few years ago the company I work for (family-owned) had an employee who wasn’t working out. She worked for the owner’s son whose department was short staffed. He didn’t want to let her go until he had a couple of new employees in place. Right before Christmas his Dad went to talk to this employee about a mistake she had made. She told him she was too busy right now (she was talking on the phone to her daughter). The owner told his son he wanted her gone by the end of the week.

    Our employees did not handle this well. They thought it was terrible the son fired her right before Christmas. Even the employees that didn’t think she was working out thought he should have waited ‘til after Christmas. One who was her friend was so upset she ended up leaving the company a couple of months later.

    You are right Allison not dealing with problem employees is not helping anyone including the employee. One way to appease the situation could have been to pay her thru the end of the year including holiday pay.

  24. Anonymous*

    I worked for a university several years ago, and the policy was not to fire people before the holidays. So, due to byzantine union restrictions on firing that made it difficult, the axes wouldn’t fall until February. Because of this, it became a bit of black humor with people calling the month “Firing February” and “Valentine’s Massacre Month”.

  25. Anonymous*

    Yesterday morning we got notice that our company had been sold and, while we have our jobs into the second quarter at least, those of us who work in corporate know the odds of staying on are very slender, at best. (I read this blog every day at lunch and had a good ironic laugh at the question of the day.)

    Would I have preferred to know after Christmas? I don’t know…the answer depends on a complicated algorithm of how much coffee I’ve had, how many job openings in my field I’ve just seen, and how many people I just connected with on LinkedIn.

  26. Anonymous*

    I was fired right before Christmas for “performance” issues. Really the issue was that I was hired to manage an IT department and when my Systems Analyst quit I was expected to do both jobs because the billion dollar corporation could not find the money to replace him. I had only been in the job about 7 months or so and was still learning most of the infrastructure. My management duties ate up about 45 hours per week and I found myself working an additional 2-3 hours per day trying to pick up the slack the SA left. My other analysts were busy working 9 to 10 hour days as well. But, I found out later that one of the other Analysts was offered my job before I came on board but the offer was withdrawn. I had always thought I sensed a bit of push back and insubordination but I just pressed on and contributed it to personality differences. My “boss” wrote me up about a month prior to the termination stating that he was exercising his right to bypass any verbal warnings. When I tried to address the issues he felt were existing, he waved me off. I later found out that the “analyst” was constantly complaining about me to my boss stating that the department morale was down since I started. I spoke with my other employees and they all said they thought things were fine. Finally, there were several projects that my predecessor fouled up (by the way, he was still a part of the company…promoted no doubt) but left for me to clean and when I tried to get help from him regarding status he brushed me off and labeled me as abrasive. I also learned that he and my “boss” were friendlies. Needless to say, the projects were already over budget but again I was waved off by my “boss” when I went to him with the issues.

    In a nut shell, I thought it callous and vindictive to fire me right before Christmas but they gave me a severance package in exchange for my agreeing not to sue. Although it is a bummer to have to look for another opportunity having to explain a termination without bad mouthing my former employer, I am glad to be gone. My blood pressure has returned to normal and my husband said, “Honey, you look younger!” It was 7 months of pure torture!

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