is there a best time of day to fire someone?

A reader writes:

I know there have been a lot of discussions on your blog about the kindest ways to fire someone. I was wondering what your opinion is on the time of day it’s done.

Recently one of my coworkers was let go. At the end of the workday, another manager ushered everyone else who was around (we’re a small office) into a fake meeting so that the employee would be able to pack up his desk in peace. This is how I have seen several other firings happen, and I thought that it seemed fair.

However, several of my coworkers were upset about the way it was handled, and said that it should have happened at the beginning of the day. I can see their side; maybe it’s better to do it first thing in the morning and get it over with. However I personally think that it could cause more commotion because everyone is arriving in the morning, saying hi, making coffee, etc., and the poor employee has to pack up and leave with everyone staring.

You’ll find arguments for any day of the week and any time of day you can think of.

The argument for doing it at the start of the day is that it can feel like a slap in the face if the person has just put in a full day’s work, not knowing that they’re about to be fired.

The argument for doing it at the end of the day is that the person can pack up their things and leave in peace, without a lot of questions or awkward conversations.

The argument for doing it in the middle of the day is that many people will be at lunch and comings and goings aren’t unusual then.

And just to complete this list, we can throw in days of the week too: The argument for doing it on Friday is that the person will have the whole weekend to process the news; this is actually thought to reduce the risk of workplace violence (such as an incident where the person angrily returns the following day). The argument for doing it on Monday is that the person can start picking up the pieces right away, rather than having to wait through a weekend before being able to conduct various pieces of business (although I think that’s less relevant now that you can do things like apply for unemployment online).

Everyone has their own views on this. But ultimately what’s most important is whether the person was treated fairly and with dignity. If they were, it doesn’t really matter what day of the week or time of day it happens. If they’re not, there’s no day or time that will make that better.

It sounds like your company was thoughtful about logistics around your coworker’s firing in order to preserve her dignity. That’s what I’d focus on.

{ 306 comments… read them below }

  1. Laurel Gray*

    I’ve always found this question to be interesting. I still feel that a Thursday or Friday firing or layoff is best. I think there is something about a buffer of two weekend days to mentally get through it but also work through a game plan. I don’t think most people would be “ready” to immediately move on and start applying and contacting recruiters if they were let go on a Monday or Tuesday.

    1. BRR*

      I tend to agree with this. At the end of the day there’s really never a “good” time to fire someone but I was fired on a Thursday morning and felt like I could use the time to process and then Monday face it head on.

    2. Apple22over7*

      I think a Thursday is a good compromise between the Monday/Friday sides of the argument. By firing/laying off on a Thursday, the (ex)employee has a business day on the Friday to jump in & get a head start on filing for unemployment, ringing around recruitment agencies etc. if they want to – but a Thursday is also close enough to a weekend that if they need to take a couple of days to process the events before jumping into action on the Monday then they can without feeling like they’ve “lost” several business days.

      But AAM is right – respect & dignity is paramount. Get that right and the day/time/moon phase won’t matter.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I think that Thursdays are good so the remainder of the staff can come back Friday and sort things out. If there were lay-offs, the staff can support each other for a day instead of going home for the weekend and fretting that they will be next.

    3. INTP*

      I think I could deal with any day of the week. I wouldn’t however like to be told on Wednesday that I’ll be fired on Friday, when everyone else has known for weeks because the boss wanted to ask them for referrals for replacements. That’s how my old boss fired receptionists. I guess giving 2 days notice was well-intentioned but it seems like unnecessary torture to me, it’s not enough time to find a new job or anything.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        This is pretty terrible, in my opinion. I can’t imagine being fired (assuming for performance/fit reasons) and then having to come back to work for the next 2 days! How awkward!

    4. Anna*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Whatever day you fire someone it’s going to suck, but I don’t know anyone who be fired Monday and wake up Tuesday full on ready to look for job thinking, “Thank goodness I was fired at the beginning of the week!” I believe The Gift of Fear supports the Friday firings, which seems better even if workplace violence isn’t a concern.

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, I agree. In some ways, I feel like Monday is worse because of that – by the time you’re feeling prepared to start job-searching, the week will likely be just about over.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I was laid off on a Thursday, right after lunch. I appreciated having Friday clear so I could go to the Career Center when they were open instead of waiting through the weekend. And I filed for unemployment online the second I got home. Then I had the weekend to make a plan, decompress, etc. It definitely does take some time to get over the shock if you didn’t know it was coming.

    6. Not telling*

      This topic couldn’t come at a better time.

      As a manager ask yourself, how would YOU feel about being fired this Friday? Two days from now. At 5PM. The last Friday of the month. Rent/mortgage due by Sunday. Your boss doesn’t even give you enough notice so that you can call your bank and stop the payment. (Because missing a mortgage payment is bad, but once it goes through, how are you going to get food on the table for your kids? And it’s too late to transfer money from savings or a retirement account). Then two tense days when you can’t talk to anyone at the unemployment office about whether you might qualify for benefits. Two days when everyone else is enjoying family time and you are a giant ball of worry. Two days when you can’t apply for jobs because no one is posting jobs and no one is reading resumes.

      Ask any experienced corporate headhunter: the surest way to burn bridges and ruin company morale is to fire someone on a Friday, especially on the last Friday of the month.

    7. esra*

      I got caught in layoffs twice in 2014, the first on a Thursday afternoon, the second a Monday morning. Honestly, I preferred the Monday morning. Get in, get it done.

  2. cheeky*

    When I was laid off from my first real post-college job (when the economy tanked), my boss told me first thing when I walked into the office that day. It was horrible because I had to pack my stuff and leave right then and there, with my coworkers sitting nearby, and I was trying my damnedest not to cry the whole time. I would have felt better if it had happened the way this company handled it.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Yeah this sucks and the gossip/whispers after a firing or layoff is what I actually hate most about them. I think how it is done is almost just as important (if not more) than why it is done.

      1. Jady*

        There was a pizza party after some employees at an old company I worked for were laid off, so that it ‘comforted’ people.

        That’s about the biggest slap in the face I could ever think of.

        1. Person of Interest*

          When I was laid off (with several others) the whole staff decided to go to happy hour on our last day to say farewell to us poor, unfortunate souls. It was well intentioned, but it was pretty miserable and awkward – the last thing I wanted was to go to HAPPY hour with the people who were staying on. If I’m going to drown my sorrows, it should be with people to whom I can openly bitch about the situation!

          1. maggie*

            Well, technically you could – it’s not like they could fire you for saying something totally outrageous. ;)

            Hope everything worked out for you guys in the end…

        2. Noo Yoka*

          The biggest slap in the face I ever heard of was when Equitable Life held a company party with a drawing for US Open Tennis tickets. My sister, an attendee at the party, was hoping to win tickets, but a mailroom boy warned her she didn’t want those tickets. Lo and behold everyone who “won” those tickets got a pink slip along with them when they went to pick them up after the party.

  3. Adam*

    I get the feeling this is one of those things where in most in cases there’s no perfect time to do it. So just do it in the most respectful way possible. You’ll never know until you do it how the person will react and everyone would ultimately have a different preference, and in the end the fact their job is ending may well supersede all other logistical considerations for them anyways.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      My first thought was that this is very close to being asked “Would you prefer to be shot in the arm or the leg?”

      1. Adam*

        Yeah. When I was laid off I was too busy racing my mind about my income woes. I don’t think time of day would have entered in until well after the fact.

        If I were to give a slight preference I think I’d prefer not to have it done to me first thing when I get into the office that day. Getting sacked directly after sitting in traffic for so long is guaranteed to multiply my surliness.

        1. OhNo*

          I was just thinking about the transportation issue. If I ever got fired (hasn’t happened yet, knock on wood), I would be awfully cranky about having had to trek all the way to work only to have to turn around and go back again right away. Plus, if you’re paid hourly, you’d miss out on that day’s pay as well.

          I wonder what your employer would do if they fired you first thing in the morning and you didn’t have any transportation until the evening, like if you carpooled with someone or took public transit that only runs at certain times of day. Hopefully bosses would take that possibility into account when choosing a time.

          1. Adam*

            That’s the other thing. I take the bus and going “the wrong way” on public transit in the morning is damn near impossible and doesn’t even begin to really start up again until after lunch sometime.

            Plus the fact that my employe provides my bus pass which they would then take back with the ending of my employment. And the likelihood I’m going to have change on hand for the bus at a moment’s notice is not very high…

            1. KarenT*

              Hopefully your company would help you out with that. We send people home in a taxi at our expense.

              1. Adam*

                That’s awesome. Also saves on the embarrassing cartoon image of getting on public transit with a bankers box full of stuff and a small potted plant that broadcasts “I just got canned”.

                1. Cath in Canada*

                  My current job is three blocks from my last job. I asked my last job if I could keep a box of stuff there over the weekend after my last day, and pick it up at lunchtime on the Monday to walk down to my new job, rather than have to gradually take it all home and then bring it all back over several days’ worth of bike commuting. On that Monday lunchtime walk I seemed to meet every single person I know, and they ALL asked if I’d just been fired! I got some sympathetic looks from strangers too.

  4. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve never had to deal with this, but I feel like the best option might be to let them go at the beginning of the day, and then allow them to come back after hours to collect their things when nobody’s around? I really don’t know.

    We had someone a few years ago who was dealing with some issues in his personal life and started becoming increasingly paranoid about his teammates being out to get him, and would make wild accusations, yell at people, etc. It was unusual enough behavior that the bosses told him to take administrative leave to sort out whatever was going on, and he was given an EAP referral. Unfortunately, he continued his downward spiral to the point that people started becoming afraid of him.

    On the day he got fired, the managers (very discreetly) found reasons for everyone in his immediate work area to be elsewhere (which was kind of funny because people were like “why am I going to this meeting that I wouldn’t normally go to?) and he was immediately escorted out. It was a sad situation but they were really afraid he might show up with a weapon or something because of comments he’d been making – so they had to be sure nobody was in the work area.

    Sigh. I hope he’s ok.

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      What a sad situation. I think there is value in clearing others out of the space via fake meeting regardless of whether or not outbursts or violence are expected. Even if you anticipate calm, rational behaviour, clearing people out gives the person time to pack their things and exit in private. I think that’s a dignified way to go about it.

    2. fposte*

      If I’m fired in a gone that day way, though, I don’t want to come back to the building later; I want to go away and never see it again.

      1. Adam*

        Agreed. When I was laid off (different than firing, but in the same ballpark) from a previous job I did not want to have to go back there for anything. For the few personal items I didn’t have time to grab on my way out either HR or Admin gathered them up and mailed them to me.

        1. Pearl116*

          I wish a former long-term employer had been as thoughtful! No time is comfortable for a termination, but treating the departing employee with respect is a win-win for everyone: at least it sets, or continues, a precedent. No one likes to believe that, if their situation sours, they’ll be treated in a manner they witnessed as less than respectful. Soiled “karma” stays in those hallways, even after the terminated employee has moved on! After an email request from HR to go to her office, 10 minutes later I was at my desk, with the head of Facilities waiting for me. I’d a second to grab my coat and bag, and was escorted to the lobby and steered to what was considered the “back entrance.” I chose to exit through the main entrance.…where I walked out the front door. It was a very surreal 15 minutes, total. I’d worked alongside the Facilities person for years as a fire/safety marshall, and she didn’t say a word other than “now” and could barely look at me. My computer was gone, too! Standard, I’m told. She told me to come back after hours on the following day if I wished to pick up anything: she’d be there if I called to make arrangements. I did…and she was a no-show. I explained the situation to the security guards, who called around on two floors for someone to fetch me—and for an hour I packed up, cleaned up, listened to various people’s “take” on my termination. Nice. Well, after nearly eleven years, it was time, at that point. I just wished I’d made the decision to move on first! But really: being on one’s best behavior—on the company’s part, as well as the departing employee’s—goes a long way, and for everyone.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            Pearl116 I so agree with you. Having been through the process myself I think it is much better to behave more professionally than the employer (at least in public).
            It gives you the moral high ground. Besides, I think their last impression of you is important.

      2. Blue Anne*

        Yes, I agree.

        We once had a firing at a small office where I worked as the admin. On the day, he and his manager had a mid-morning meeting off site (they told us they were going for a coffee together, but I processed the bill for use of a meeting room later). From what I understand, the employee had lots of notice and knew what was going on, and so took all his necessities with him – didn’t leave his house keys or anything super personal in the office, etc. After that meeting he went home. Later in the day our boss met with everyone on the team individually to talk to us about what had happened, and as the admin I boxed up everything he’d left and had it couriered to him along with his final paperwork the next day. I think it’d be difficult to handle it that way in a much larger office, but it seemed really good for everyone involved. (Or at least as not-bad as possible.)

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I worked at a company that went through 3 rounds of layoffs in 2 years. When there was a company meeting we would bring our purses in case we were let go in the meeting. “Bring Your Purse” came to mean “this company is in trouble.”

          1. Facilities&more*

            We had a similar situation at my company several years ago. Instead of “Bring Your Purse” meetings, we worried about any meetings scheduled for 4pm on Thursdays (which was when most of the layoff meetings ended up being held). Anytime there was a meeting scheduled for that time/day, everyone was in a panic to the point where employees would discreetly whittle down their personal belongings in their offices and cubes the days leading up to the meeting. It was an extremely stressful time, but thankfully the company has rebounded and is doing well at the moment.

          2. KarenT*

            We had that too. Massive layoffs last year, and any time we were summoned by a manager, we would always mutter “Should I bring my coat and purse?”

      3. Vancouver Reader*

        I guess the thing with being able to come back later in the day is that you have time to process the dismissal and you can gather your things in a calmer state.

        When husband’s workplace did their mass layoffs, I believe people had to clear their desks immediately, so later on, he found lots of personal items that were left behind.

        1. Artemesia*

          I would not want an employee newly fired to have time to go home and say pick up the roquefort dressing to put down the air vents or gather up a weapon. And having them in the office when pretty much noone is around is asking for trouble. I would think right after being fired would be the peak moment for irrational lashing out.

          I like the end of the day — clear others from the office approach which allows dignity and doesn’t draw it out.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      My employer doesn’t have a set time of the day or day of the week for firings. But they always give folks the option to come back at another time to pack up their belongings. Some folks prefer to pack up on the spot and never come back. Others – especially those who have really nested and have a lot of belongings – prefer to set up a time at the end of a business day to come and pack up. I like that we give them the option to decide for themselves.

      1. Joey*

        i don’t know about anyone else but seeing people take so long to pack up all of their personal belongings has made me a minimalist at work. All of my personal belongings could be packed in less than 5 minutes and could be carried in 1 box.

          1. KarenT*

            Me, too. We did massive layoffs last year and I took a lot of my personal stuff home. Everyone was doing it. I feel very portable right now–if I got fired, like Joey I could be outta here in five minutes.

            1. Ali*

              Hehe. At my company the person is escorted out with no chance to pack up; the manager packs their stuff later. One person here has so much stuff it would probably take five or six boxes and a ton of our manager’s time to pack her desk. She is not well liked so we joke that she has so much crap here to protect herself from getting fired.

              1. Marcy*

                That’s how it is at mine, too, except that it is HR who packs the stuff so the manager doesn’t get accused of stealing anything.

        1. Ebonarc*

          I have a similar attitude, though for different reasons. We have a lot of desk moves at my company, and the culture is that you should clean out and get rid of stuff you no longer need every time you move. If, theoretically, my entire team were to get layed off, a fair number of us would barely need a box for our stuff, though a couple people are pack rats and have a ton of stuff at their desk.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            When a company I worked at had layoffs, they gave us all boxes that said “Moving America Forward!” on them. I guess there’s no box that makes mass layoffs better, but it seemed like a strange choice.

        2. anonymouse*

          I have at least three boxes of technical reference texts at my desk. I don’t use any of them on a daily basis, and some I haven’t cracked open since grad school, but it makes far more sense to keep them at work rather than at home where I *really* don’t need them. I’d definitely want to come back after hours to pack and move everything

    4. HR Manager*

      I often prefer early to mid morning and not late afternoon ones. This gives some chance for the employee to think about what s/he might want and to reach out to me to make arrangements – come back and pack up after hours or have us ship things to her/him. I don’t like doing this on Fridays; what a way to ruin someone’s weekend. Mondays I avoid if only because many people are still in a fog Monday morning. I don’t have a preference for any other day of the week though. But please, please, please bosses – don’t tell me you want to do this the day before a major holiday (like right before Thanksgiving or Xmas). *sigh*

      1. Zillah*

        I don’t know – I think if you’re laid off, your weekend is probably going to be ruined anyway, you know? If I’m laid off on a Wednesday, I’m not going to be feeling awesome on Saturday.

      2. maggie*

        YES. And why do we always hear that happening? My husbands employer just did this – one person the day before Thanksgiving and the other the day before Christmas. It’s appalling. Surely you could wait another month (outside of someone stealing, of course).

        1. Jen in Austin*

          Here’s a good one – getting laid off right after coming back from getting married. I seem to remember it was by voice mail, as well.

        2. The Strand*

          Late for this one, but just had to add that … sadly… I can top “getting married”.

          I was on a team of contractors doing a “death march project”. One of the other contractors, a project manager just didn’t gel with him. He was never disrespectful to her, but it was as if they were talking past each other.

          She fired him the day after his first child was born (he had of course arranged to take the time off that day, then come back in for the project).

          And, I always thought that was the worst, except that a close friend of mine who works in health care was fired, and had her health coverage dropped, shortly (less than 2 weeks) before her scheduled C-section, during a pregnancy that was painful and required bed rest. I warn everyone about the clinic she once worked at; they were that nasty.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      This is similar to a situation I had to deal with about 8 years ago. It was the one and only time I had to fire someone, and it really was terrible. He had a bunch of serious turmoil happening in his personal life (deaths in the family, health issues, etc), and he was just not able to function in his job at all. My boss and I literally begged him to use his FMLA, since it seemed tailor-made for a situation like his, but for whatever reason he wouldn’t do it. So we had no choice but to fire him.

      It was really awful, because I just felt like I was kicking him when he was down, but there really was no other alternative. We had the meeting at the end of the day, so he could just leave quietly. I told him he could pack up his desk right then, or I could box it up and send it to him, or I could meet him at the office on that Saturday so he could have some privacy. He chose the Saturday option. The HR rep who worked with me through the process advised me not to meet him at the office alone, just because you just never know how people are going to react in situations like this, plus we suspected he’d been having issues with alcohol, perhaps something he’d gotten under control in the past, but then had resurfaced with all the stress he was dealing with. The HR guy flat-out said, “I hope you don’t think I’m sexist, but whoever comes with you should be a guy.” So I brought my big, scary-looking, intimidating husband with me and there were no problems (not that I really thought that was likely).

      He did find another job, and I heard through the grapevine that he was doing pretty well. Then the company filed for bankruptcy, and he kind of backslid. Then a couple years later, the poor man had a heart attack and died. He was so very troubled, so I hope wherever he is now, he has found some peace.

      I really tried hard to be as kind as I could be, given the circumstances, and offered to meet him at the office on the weekend so he could at least pack his stuff up without a bunch of looky-loos spying on him. But of course I always wonder if there was something else I could have done to help him.

      1. C Average*

        Wow, what a sad story. It sounds like you were as compassionate as anyone could possibly be under the circumstances.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          For a long time, I used that situation as a measuring stick for other situations I was dreading. Like I would tell myself, “Ugh, this is really going to suck, but it won’t be as bad as what I had to do to Former Employee.” But then after he died, I stopped because it just would have felt too callous and insensitive to keep doing that.

      2. Stephanie*

        Wow, that’s sad.

        Was the FMLA leave paid? If not, I’m guessing maybe that could have been a reason he didn’t want to use FMLA.

        1. Mitchell*

          FMLA can be used intermittently and you can apply for FMLA but not use it. So if you are having ongoing issues that would qualify– you should use it. That way, if you are so upset and distracted at work (or in pain) that your boss has complaints about your performance you can take some time off without risking your job. Yes, it is unpaid, but a few days here and there of unpaid leave is probably better than being fired.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          We never even got to the point of him asking about that. He just said no when we made the offer. Still though, I never did get it. His wife had a really good job, so yeah, it probably would have been a bit lean for awhile if he had taken a month or 2 of unpaid leave, but but there still would have been money coming in. Of course I didn’t know anything about their personal finances — it could have been that the leave being unpaid is what made him say no. I think he had used all of his PTO for family situations, so he didn’t even have that to draw on.

      3. Artemesia*

        Boy, I really feel strongly that the office should have provided security. I’d hate to think that both you and your husband might have ended up shot by an irrational angry employee. Where I worked security would provide staff to assist us if we had any reason to believe the person we were dealing with posed a threat. Bring your husband just seems so wrong as advise from the business.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Thinking about it now, I agree with you. But at the time I didn’t really consider it. I felt so terrible for having to fire him in the first place that I was totally focused on how I could soften the blow for him, because it was such a crappy situation all the way around.

          And I’m sure he knew why I had my husband with me when he got there on that Saturday. We told him that we were on our way to my mom’s house, but it was pretty obvious.

          It’s an interesting question though. My office has badge readers at the doors, and security cameras all over the place, but no security guards on the premises. So I wonder what you do when you have a situation that warrants an actual security guard, when you don’t have any to begin with?

      4. Us, Too*

        I had a VERY similar situation for my first firing. Talk about trial by “fire”. It was truly horrific. The only good thing about it is that it certainly makes any number of hard discussions seem easy by comparison.

  5. BRR*

    As Alison pointed out there are argument on both sides that are completely valid and for each individual employee they will have their own preferences. I will say the only thing to consider is don’t do it at the super end of the day because it might take some employees some time to gather their composure for their commute home. I’d hate to be brought in at 4:55 and while being too distraught to drive home have people sitting their looking at their watches.

    Day and time is something that everybody won’t come to a consensus on, as Alison said just do it with as much compassion as possible. When I was fired they gave me the option of coming in before or after work to get my belongings or even pack it up for me. I really appreciated it. They also went to get my coat so I didn’t have to go back through the office.

  6. AdAgencyChick*

    Whatever you do, don’t make the person work MORE than an 8-hour day and then fire them. My old boss, who inspired fanatical levels of devotion in just about everyone who worked for him, was fired after 6 PM one day — he was doing a client call, and then TPTB held him there for an extra hour to fire him and make him do the paperwork. It turned out that HR was anxious that the firing be done that day because some of his deferred bonus was due to vest the next day.

    Fire an employee who’s almost universally beloved? After he’s worked a full day and then some? And do it in such a way as to nickel-and-dime him out of as much of his bonus money as possible? Yeah, that’s how you keep morale up.

    1. Rebecca*

      I had a friend who had been working major overtime at her job. She got home late one evening and had a voice mail letting her know that her position was being eliminated. She was livid. (I think she was working at a call center, which is of course its own circle of hell.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve told this before, but at the nonprofit where I worked, the CEO announced at the company meeting that one of my coworkers would be leaving us, as they were eliminating her position and restructuring our department.

        No one told her before the meeting.

        You should have seen her face. I think the guy did it to demonstrate to us that no one was safe–he had a habit of threatening like “If you don’t get donations up we’re all going to be without a job!” as motivation. Well, he accomplished his goal; we were all jumpy for weeks after that. Jerk.

        1. Joel*

          I accidentally forced my boss/mentor to do something similar like that once and I felt really bad about it. My boss held a meeting with the whole staff (which he NEVER did) and explained that the contract we had been working on was changing and we’d be adding more people in one department. I piped up and asked where the new people would sit since all of the desks were taken. He then had to explain these two people’s positions would be eliminated. One person eventually negotiated a part time job because she’d been at the company the longest and I think my boss let her do that since she’d just come back from maternity leave and he wanted to give her something part time until she found another full time role. As far as I know, 5 years later, she’s still there part time. .

    2. Artemesia*

      I know two people fired by different start ups the day before their stock which substituted for actual pay was to vest. They used them for a year for things absolutely critical to get the business up and running; they were fired basically to cheat them of their pay.

  7. HR Ninja*

    Firing is always awkward no matter the time of day and as usual AAM answer was spot on.

    The reason mornings are not always the best is because there is likely some steps to take in the day before the act, informing those that need to know, final check calculation which may include unused time off, and yes, usually less people to interact with.

  8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    I’ve done it every which way and I’m now a believer in – any time of day, any day of the week, don’t clear the co-workers out and give the person a choice as to whether they want to pack up their desk themselves or not.

    It’s routinely awful for co-workers but where I used to side on the level of comfort for co-workers, I now side on the as much dignity or power of choice I can offer the terminated.

    Exception – if we thought someone would fly off the handle, we wouldn’t give them the immediate pack up their desk choice.

    Most people choose to pack up their desks right then and tell their co-workers right then. Most people don’t make a loud emotional deal about it or draw their co-workers in or need to be pushed out the door. I’m really glad we came to this because, mostly, I think it is the right thing for us to do.

    1. fposte*

      I also think this is a situation where people may well vent about the timing of a firing when they’re really venting about being fired, and that’s fine; it doesn’t mean the business needs to change its timing in future. When you’re being fired, you really don’t need to demonstrate crystalline precision on what exactly you’re hurt and angry about.

      1. Us, Too*


        In the horrible firing I mentioned in my previous comment, the staff member (after arguing about being fired at all), complained strenuously that we waited to fire her until Friday afternoon (“I could have been job-hunting all day”, etc).

        I just explained that we wanted to be respectful and considerate of her feelings and privacy and that this timing allowed her the least exposure in terms of having to walk tear-stained through the workplace during a busy time. She was still mad so we redirected the conversation to next steps.

  9. Bend & Snap*

    Agree with the dignity and respect piece. I sat in on a firing before leaving my last job and my boss (the reason I left) absolutely eviscerated this entry-level employee. It crossed the line from “you were warned about these behaviors, they didn’t improve and we are letting you go” to a laundry list of mistakes and opinion commentary on the guy’s personality and work ethic.

    The person being fired CRIED. Hard. And hugged me on the way out.

    He knew it was coming; he didn’t need the level of cruelty and disrespect he was shown.

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      This is awful. At the point someone is being fired, telling them all these horrible things accomplishes nothing. I’d be very cautious around that boss after that incident.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        It was my last week. The guy reported to me, so I should have been the one to fire with my boss as a witness, but boss was a power-hungry blowhard so I had to just sit and watch while he tore this kid to shreds. He was all of 23.

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh geez. And I’m sure he had work PTSD after that happened. Even if he was the worst teapot heating analyst ever, a simple “you were warned, didn’t meet your PIP terms, and we’re letting you go; best of luck in your career” would have sufficed.

          1. Nervous accountant*

            That happened to me s few years back. And to this day I still get this fear at every single job that I’ll be fired in the same way. (The origin behind the nick).

    2. Kelly L.*

      Ugh. To bring out the dating analogies again, this is why “it’s not working out” cliches exist. No one wants to be dumped with “I’m dumping you because you have bad breath and you hang the TP wrong and you snore and I hate the way you chew and I’ve been screwing Jane in accounting.” The laundry list of grievances is only helpful if you can actually still salvage the relationship/job. If it’s too late, it’s salt in the wound.

      1. C Average*

        It reminds me of an ER episode that’s always haunted me. Luka and Abby had this horrible breakup and, as he was leaving, he got the last word in by shouting, “You’re not that pretty and you’re not that special!” Scorched earth.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        I’ve been dumped from a long-term relationship via the “here’s a long list of reasons why I think you suck, oh and I’m sleeping with someone else, no you don’t know her, well actually it’s someone you’ve met several times since we started sleeping together” method. Over the phone, no less. I can confirm that it is the WORST. Took me well over a year to fully recover.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              And a time machine ;D

              It’s all good now, all our mutual friends shunned him and no-one ever replies to his tweets. Not that I ever check or anything; that would be bad.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Why on earth would someone give a fired person a laundry list of reasons they were being fired? As if being fired does suck enough.

      Unless there is misconduct, that makes no sense. You’re not sitting in a termination with shocking news, other than the part where this is the end of the road, in almost any cases.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        To clarify, of course we will say generally the whys, but we’re not going to beat upon “you were given 30 days to improved and you had XYZ helps and you still really really suck”.

        1. De Minimis*

          I was given a copy of my final evaluation as they fired me, but it was a separate document from the separation paperwork. I assume it was some procedural hoop they had to follow. I was never on a PIP or anything like that, so they couldn’t really use that kind of terminology. The partner just said, “It just isn’t a fit…” and it wasn’t.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Exactly. Unless it is misconduct (thievery, etc. ), everything boils down to wasn’t a fit. If I can be helpful as to why it wasn’t a fit, of course I’ll do that, because that can help them make a better choice next time.

            Helping someone understand why they were terminated isn’t the same thing as reading them a list of their faults.

  10. some1*

    “However, several of my coworkers were upset about the way it was handled”

    I can understand feeling this way — I have seen coworkers let go and it really does suck. Please remember how much worse it is for the person who was let go. I am not sure if your coworkers are doing this, but when I was laid off in a large round I read statuses from the coworkers who were kept on about how upsetting it was for them. Maybe I am a jerk, but it seemed insensitive for them to be focusing on their feelings when they still had jobs.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Nope, you’re not a jerk, it is very insensitive and I would be annoyed reading something like that if I was one of the people let go.

      1. De Minimis*

        I don’t blame them though, during large rounds of layoffs they are probably concerned that they will be next. That was certainly the case for my coworkers back in 2009.

        Now if it’s a case where it’s just one person being let go, that’s different.

      2. Judy*

        That reminds me of when it was announced that a large part of the business I worked in was closing, and lots of people were losing their jobs. My kids were young at the time, one preschool and one in kindergarten. We didn’t really tell them much, we were pretty matter of fact with them. And then on Sunday, at church, I had upset, hugging little old ladies worried about me. Like that didn’t make the kids a little concerned. I kept thinking, why are you so very upset about this.

        (I was not part of that closure, although they did close the location entirely about 5 years later.)

    2. BRR*

      I think in this type of situation they’re just upset about their coworker being fired and that feeling will manifest in different ways.

      1. some1*

        No, I don’t think they were trying to be insensitive at all, but I do think it’s worth pointing out when these discussions come up.

        Sort of like complaining your mom’s driving you crazy to a friend who’s mom just died. Your complaint about your mom is valid, but you need to know your audience.

        1. BRR*

          When I was unemployed my friend was complaining about the crazy hours she had to work. Well she did once to me and only once.

          1. some1*

            Ugh, when I was unemployed my friend called to ask me to go out for drinks. I told her that I couldn’t afford to go. I asked how she was and she complained about her raise being too small.

          2. Colette*

            I don’t think that’s unreasonable to complain about, even though you were unemployed. You had time but not money, she had money but no time. They are both valid things to be unhappy about. I mean, if she was complaining about having to work at all, that would be unreasonable, but complaining about having to work 60 hours a week wouldn’t be.

            1. BRR*

              Except that at that point I would have taken any position that paid a certain amount with benefits no matter the hours. Instead of trying to figure out if it’s ok to complain to an unemployed person about work it’s better to just steer clear.

              1. Colette*

                I guess, but I think that could lead to people just not talking to you, which probably isn’t what you’re going for. I think it’s important to realize that your friends have problems that are as important/relevant to them as yours are to you, and that your problems (even if they may look bigger to you) don’t mean your friends shouldn’t want sympathy for theirs.

                1. BRR*

                  And I agree that it’s not a contest of who has it worse because that’s terrible dismissive of people’s feelings. But as Stephanie notes below, some people can show a little more compassion. In regards to my friend, since she just needed to vent there was a long list of people she could have vented to before her recently fired friend. Her coworkers working the same long hours, her parents, her employed friends, her employed boyfriend, etc. If she needed my advice I would have gladly helped but to vent there were others who would be more sympathetic than the person barely getting by on unemployment.

          3. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I saw an acquaintance recently who had just quit her job. She had to travel internationally a lot, with short notice, so I could sort of get that being tough and draining after a while. It was when she was telling me “And you know I just had to quit at this point, because I would have gotten another promotion and I would have been making too much money to walk away.” As I had been looking for full-time work for over a year and a half at that point, it took all my strength not to tell her off (I figured it wasn’t worth the awkwardness for someone I see like once every two years).

            On the other hand, a good friend will call me to vent about his job. We’re in the same time zone, he works into the evening a lot (and I work part-time at night), so he’ll call to vent since our schedules align. One time he was like “Wait, sorry if it’s awkward that I’m complaining about my job when you’re just trying to find anything full-time that’s not underemployment.” I said I didn’t mind, but it was good he at least caught what he was doing and asked.

            1. Zillah*

              Yeah. It’s in no way wrong to have feelings about negative aspects of your job. It’s reasonable to be exhausted from working 60 hours a week or bothered by extensive travel or irritated that you don’t get any PTO. However, just because it’s objectively reasonable to have issues with these things doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise any judgment in who you talk to about them. I mean, you probably wouldn’t complain to your employer about them, either!

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I agree with you. I’m sorry if a firing is upsetting to the people who work here, but I’m always going to care more about what’s best for the person who is being fired.

    4. LawBee*

      When I was laid off, I called a close friend and cried to her about it. She commisserated for about thatlong, and then spent the rest of the call talking about how awesome her job was. It took a long time for me to get past that.

      (In her defense, she had no idea how upsetting the conversation was. She had just started her first job ever, and was dying to talk about it. She called me weeks later and said that she’d been hit with a sledgehammer of perspective, and apologized profusely. And yes we’re still close friends and no I wouldn’t drop her for all the money in the world.)

    5. Anna*

      When I got laid off it was probably the nicest thing ever. Even though my boss was a little crazy and co-dependent, she was really sad to let me go and I was able to cry and I packed up my junk and said goodbye to everyone. It was sad, but not horrible. This wasn’t a firing, it was being laid off, but it never ceases to amaze me that people don’t instinctually understand there are Ways To Do It and Ways Not To Do It.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        One time when I was laid off, the manager spent at least a half hour after telling me I was being let go “commiserating” with me about it, telling me that her husband had been out of work for a year…

        (Wow, so you still have an entire income coming into your home, and I just lost the only one in my household!)

        …and how expensive it was to keep her kids in private school…

        (And I’m wondering if I’ll be able to buy groceries tomorrow.)

        …and how she had to postpone improvements on her home when her husband lost his job…

        (And I’m wondering if I can pay my rent.)

        And then she sent me back to my desk to finish my shift!

        No, please don’t do it this way.

    6. C Average*

      I dunno on this one.

      I can see objecting if the person is subjecting YOU specifically to this kind of conversation. That’s definitely insensitive.

      But objecting to a status update? They’re sharing their thoughts and feelings with the world, not just you.

      And it IS hard to come to work after layoffs. You feel guilty but relieved, which is a whole tangle of conflicting emotions. You may not feel sure whether reaching out to ex-colleagues is acceptable or not–there may be restrictions in place. You may inherit a lot of work and be struggling to keep up. There’s an unspoken feeling that joy, laughter, and general enjoyment are not allowed in the wake of the layoffs. It’s bleak. Sounding off about the bleakness in a general status update isn’t the same as subjecting your just-laid-off colleague to a rant about your sucky job.

    7. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yep. I think it’s just an upsetting sitaution, and people look for reasons to justify how upset they feel (time of day, etc.).

      I would guess that more often than not, it comes down to what’s possible schedule-wise vs. what is the ideal in theory. I fired someone at 4pm one time and she was mad that I had known all day and hadn’t told her. The reality was that I had meetings all day and literally did not have more than a 10 minute break. I can’t expect to respectfully handling firing someone in 10 minutes when I’m rushing between meetings. Believe me, it wasn’t a strategy to get more work out of her – she wasn’t doing any anyway.

      1. Anon for this, oh yes*

        We once had a fellow who eventually (after various steps, but we didn’t have a formal process with a timeline) was slated to be fired and everyone who had to agree had agreed.

        Except, they had to pick the timing, because the agreement was reached like a week before he was due to get married, and had scheduled time off for a honeymoon right after.

        They waited until he got back, and fired him on his first day back, giving him all the vacation – he had gone negative on his accrual for the honeymoon – without requiring him to pay it back.

        I’m still trying to figure out whether it’s better to be fired the week before your wedding or the day after you get back from your honeymoon. Even if you know it’s probably coming, they’re both horrible options.

    8. Artemesia*

      I was in a department cut in a merger and we were all in a meeting about the transition with the people whose departments were being integrated into the new organization. They were all ‘when will I get my new pass to the fancy gym they have’ and ‘when does this fabulous benefit kick in’ while others of us were licking our wounds and having questions about outplacement services. A badly designed event that I still remember over 30 years later with pain.

    9. Nervous accountant*

      I actually had someone say to me “you’re so lucky, this job sucks!!!!!” Im sorry yu hate your job so much but you’ve been working for years and have everything that I want (career wise)….I’m the lucky one? Jerk.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Ugh. Some people!

        “Let’s go to management right away and let them know you’d like to trade! I’m always happy to help, you know that.”

  11. Stephanie*

    Yeah, I got fired after I spent most of the day on a project…which they wanted me to wrap up so I could then be let go. Don’t do that.

    Aside from that, I think there’s going to be an argument for or against any time of day. If there’s lots of paperwork they need to do, I’d say that’s an argument in favor of early to middle of the day. I had a job with really high turnover (like 50% or something). HR had a special “separation hour” every day as there was a lot of paperwork you had to get signed before you could leave–it was things like turning into ID badges, computers, etc. Separation hour was like mid-morning.

    I think your company did the right thing by not having the person walk out in front of everyone with all his stuff in a box.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I hate when companies do this. They have people working on specific projects who will be terminated and they wait for it to be completed before doing the termination. So it’s been decided that Suzy will be fired three weeks ago but her project doesn’t end until the 27th so we get HR to start her exit paperwork, accounting to cut her final and severance pay, and then we let Suzy work, unbeknownst to her for 2 weeks and then on the afternoon of the 27th or the morning of the 28th, when she thinks she can finally breathe again because her project is done, she’s canned. My goodness just typing out the scenario irked me. I’m convinced that there is a better way to handle this where Suzy knows what’s coming and still finishes the project.

      1. D*

        This is a genuine question – what’s wrong with that?

        If you were putting in time just for the sake of it then yeah that makes no sense – or if your employer had you do a full day of team building activities and then fired you at the end. But unless you were an atrocious employee who needed to be fired immediately for something outrageous, then it’s generally a business decision to get rid of someone, no?

        So why wouldn’t they do what’s best for the business and have you finish a project you were working on? The project isn’t for you to begin with, it’s for your employer, and they want to have it done. But maybe the one person with expertise that they need to finish it just isn’t a high performer overall and they don’t want to have them at the company anymore, or the person has had a bad attitude/performance issues for months and they want to let them go, but the project has an external deadline set by a client? You wouldn’t want to have a project left unfinished, or make your client concerned that you were unstable/putting duds on their project and potentially casting doubt onto the quality of the work or integrity of the team.

        Surely it’s better to have the project finished (and yeah it would suck to get fired but I think my morale would be even lower if I didn’t even get to finish a project I was invested in – I’d be questioning everything and I also would feel I couldn’t put it on my resume), then there’s no upheaval for a) your colleagues on the project b) any other stakeholders, and then they can start to recruit someone better suited for them going forward (or someone cheaper…whatever the reason is.)

        Is it “nice” – not sure, but I feel if you want “niceness” out of an employer then your outlook needs readjusting! I think what we should all hope for is “fairness” – and to me, having someone wrap up a project that they are working on, but no more, before they get fired, is fair enough.

        1. the_scientist*

          I don’t know, I think when you’re (temporarily) destroying someone’s livelihood, fairness is the bare minimum you should aim for. Realistically, you want to give the person as much kindness and dignity as you can manage, as Alison said. It’s also situation-dependent. If you have someone working on a specific project, and know you don’t have the budget to continue their employment/no longer need their skill-set once the project has wrapped up, is there any reason you couldn’t give them some lead time? Tell them that their employment will be terminated on X day (two weeks, one week or 1 month out or whatever) and let them get a head start on their job search (assuming of course, the employee is trustworthy and can handle working out their notice period). Otherwise it seems like you’re yanking the finished product out of their hands and saying “thanks, but we don’t need you anymore! SEE YOU NEVER”. Waiting until the project is finished and then springing a termination/layoff on someone is like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip or something (this is not a good simile but can’t think of a better one right now), especially when you’ve known for days/weeks/months what is going to happen.

          1. Zillah*

            I think that this can also be dependent on why you’re letting them go – “We don’t anticipate needing this skill set when the project is done” is not the same thing as “We don’t want you anymore.”

            1. the_scientist*

              Absolutely, and like Stephanie said….if it’s a performance issue, wouldn’t you want them gone sooner rather than later? If they aren’t performing, someone’s going to have to come in and clean up their mess anyway, so it seems like it would be better for everyone to take them off the project rather than waiting it out.

              1. D*

                I guess the idea is that ‘performance issues’ aren’t generally something outrageous. Maybe Suzy is generally rude, disliked by her peers, abrasive, comes in late, is only meeting the bare minimum of her role objectives, and her boss has decided she’s too difficult to keep on even after a number of performance reviews, etc….but she’s great with data, is the longest standing member of the team, clients love her and this project is high profile. I would think that it would make sense to let her finish the work, no? I just don’t see it as employers squeezing every last bit of work, but more like doing their best to ensure the continuity of the overall team, and maybe disrupting a project creates a lot more residual work for Suzy’s team in the long run.

        2. Stephanie*

          I guess what seems a bit confusing is that if the employee really isn’t meeting expectations, why would you want them to keep working on a project that someone else may have to fix after they’ve been fired? If it’s clear that things aren’t working out, seems like you’d want to get them off the project before any further damage could be inflicted.

          I say this as someone who’s been in this situation. I wasn’t bad at the job, I was just mediocre. What I was strong at…my team wasn’t doing much of any more and I struggled with the newer projects. Having been on the reverse side (i.e., fixing someone’s not great project and redoing things), seems like the more efficient thing would have been to cut ties before I finished things.

      2. LawBee*

        I don’t know how much incentive there would be for Suzy to finish the project, though. And generally employers know when someone is going to be fired before the employee does, just for this reason. It makes perfect sense to me to get all the annoying paperwork done and then when it’s time to let Suzy go, all she has to do is sign the papers. It seems very clean.

        whereas if Suzy knows that she’s out when the project is over (and if she’s being fired, she’s probably mentally written off any good recommendation) then why should she bother putting in her best work? Were I in Suzy’s position, I’d probably just resign the next day.

        1. Zillah*

          Maybe it’s just my industry, which is very project-based, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. I think it depends a lot on whether Suzy is being fired because they’re unhappy with her performance or being laid off because they won’t need her skill set anymore. I wouldn’t start slacking off in the latter situation – I’d just appreciate the lead-time in looking for a new job.

          1. J*

            Agreed. This is a good example of “know thy employee,” because while I might keep working hard for that last month, grateful for the opportunity to start my job search early, “Lucinda” might start phoning it in and make that last month excruciating.

    2. Audiophile*

      ^This. I was fired a few months, midweek, and they let me come in and do most of my work for the morning. There was no real warning that it was coming and I felt blindsided. I was more annoyed that they even let me come in in the first place (since it involved a long commute for me) and didn’t just do it a day or two earlier.

    3. A Jane*

      At my old toxic job, I had a coworker who knew she was going to be let go after she finished a document. She ended up taking twice as long to finish it, and used that extra time to call an employment laywer about what was going on.

  12. Joey*

    Yes. The best time of day to do it is as soon as you’ve worked out all of the logistics. Waiting for the “right time of day” is just an excuse for putting it off. No one wants to be there longer than they’re wanted. So once you decide you don’t want someone there get it over with.

    It’s the equivalent of asking when is the best time of day to breakup with someone.

    1. Joey*

      If you’re worried about saving face just tell the person you can handle it however they want. They can gather their stuff now, come back later, or have their stuff mailed.

      1. The Toxic Avenger*

        Agreed, Joey. It’s awful no matter what. Best to get it done, and give them options unless they are being fired for something egregious where they need to get out and stay out.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep. And waiting is bad for a number of reasons. I’ve talked to several managers who put it off and then the person ended up needing to take FMLA leave and now the firing is going to look like FMLA retaliation. Or they get pregnant, and now the employer — who didn’t document enough and give warnings — is worried about it looking like pregnancy retaliation.

      Do it as soon as you’ve made the decision and logistics are in place.

    3. KerryOwl*

      Well, I would rather be fired near the end of the day, for reasons outlined above. Unfortunately, this is a situation where different people have different opinions, there is no “right” answer.

  13. Rex*

    I think the important thing is to find a balance between compassion and transparency. It’s certainly possible to fire someone while having neither, but even a well-meaning employer can have trouble balancing those two concerns. I think the answer will depend on the company and culture, and the role of the person being fired (ie, how will their firing impact other people?) On one hand, you want to protect the dignity of the person being fired, on the other hand, you don’t want a whole office full of people wondering if they are next, and wondering how this will impact their work.

  14. JMegan*

    I want to share the story of my firing, which I think was done with a lot of dignity and respect.

    Everyone who sat in my immediate area was scheduled for a meeting at 10:00 am (on a Thursday, I think.) I was scheduled for a meeting with my manager at the same time, and when I got there I saw the director of HR sitting there as well. The meeting itself was very short – I don’t think it could have been more than 10-15 minutes. I was given a really good severance package, which included X weeks of pay, Y weeks of my existing benefits, and the use of a “career transition service” which helps people get their resumes together and start their job hunt after a job loss.

    During the meeting, my security pass was cancelled, and my computer was locked. A different HR person walked me back to my desk, and offered me the choice of packing up my desk right then, coming back another time, or having her pack everything up and courier it. She also told me that if I needed any personal files from my computer or email, I could let her know within 30 days and she would send it along.

    I chose to pack up my desk and leave right away. The HR person gave me a taxi chit, and said if I could mail it back to them that would be great, but not to worry about it if I couldn’t. Then she walked me right out to the driveway, and asked if I wanted her to wait with me or go back upstairs.

    Now, my recollection of all this is coloured by the fact that I was incredibly burnt out at that job and ready to leave, and the fact that I was expecting to be fired sooner or later anyway. But even so, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way they did it. The firing itself was a done deal, but for everything else they went out of their way to give me choices, and to help make me as comfortable as possible under some really uncomfortable circumstances.

    1. some1*

      I agree that it’s dignified to allow people the choice to pack their own things. I have one friend who’s desk was packed for her and when she got home she discovered things had been forgotten. Another friend wasn’t allowed to go back to his desk to get his coat – in February in Minnesota.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow. For anyone else who’s ever in that situation, the correct response is: “Well, then please go get it for me. I’ll be waiting here until you do.”

        1. some1*

          They told him they would mail it to him! Luckily he called a coworker from the lobby and the coworker brought it.

        2. Bend & Snap*

          For my firing, I realized I had forgotten something sentimental in the stress of packing. I called about it and my former manager had thrown it away.


      2. AdAgencyChick*


        Do people really not think? At ALL? I mean, even if the person doing the firing clearly wasn’t worried about being a decent human being, doesn’t she at some level realize that stories will be told about incidents like this for years, and that it therefore pays to be a decent human being?

        Rhetorical question. Sigh.

      3. JMegan*

        What? Even aside from your coat, what about your wallet and keys? Women, at least, don’t generally carry these things around the office with them – they’re in a purse at their desk. How are you supposed to get home if you can’t get in the car, or can’t get to your wallet for your bus pass?

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I was fired once via FedEx–on a suspension, they sent me a letter asking me to mail my key back and that they would ship my things. I then turned around and sent my boss a letter stating that I understood, and to please make sure certain items were returned to me. They were. Had they not been, I would have sent an invoice.

    2. the_scientist*

      I really, really like that they gave you a taxi chit. I know if I was let go and had to lug a box of my stuff home with me on the bus/streetcar/subway, I’d be a bit put out. Not everybody drives to work! And, if I was let go in the middle of the day, carrying a box of stuff on public transit, dressed in work clothes, would be the equivalent of having a neon sign on your head that says “I JUST GOT FIRED” which would NOT help my emotional state. Providing (private) transportation to someone who doesn’t have it is a super thoughtful and classy move, I think.

      1. JMegan*

        I do too – they really did think of all the details. There was a lot I didn’t like about working there, especially towards the end, but if I ever find myself having to fire someone, I’m going to copy a lot of what was done when it happened to me.

  15. BethRA*

    Given that there are advantages and disadvantages to any given day/time of day, I suspect that the best time to fire someone is “as soon as is reasonably possible after the decision has been made.” It’s not going to be fun for anyone – including the terminated employee’s coworkers. Why drag it out unless there’s a specific, compelling reason? (you’re concerned they’ll respond particularly badly so you want everyone else to have done home, or have to weekend to calm down as Allison suggests above).

  16. B*

    My last company handled lay-offs very well (about the only thing they actually were good at doing because it happened so often). I was laid off on a Thursday around 10 or 11 and we were told we could stay until Friday. It gave me time to email my contacts, gather information I needed, pack my office, and hand-off projects so as not to burn bridges. If it had been done at the end of the day I would have been pissed that you just made me work a whole day knowing full well that was it.

  17. De Minimis*

    As someone who has been through it, middle of the day was really good as far as it not drawing attention. It just looked like I was leaving for lunch, and no one noticed anything other than probably my immediate cube neighbor since the HR rep was nearby [though she said she would try and hang back to avoid attention, but I think she was required to be around while I was collecting my belongings.] For me that didn’t take long, I’d seen this coming for weeks if not months, so I’d already brought everything back home for the most part. BTW, if you are ever in the same situation where you’re pretty sure you’re going to be let go soon, it’s good to do that. Gradually take all your personal stuff back home well in advance so when the day comes, you don’t have to worry about it.

    I personally would hate being fired at the end of the day, it would seem like the employer just wanted me to hang around all day for nothing, just to be a jerk.

    In general, I think it’s just a judgment call based on the individual, the issues leading up to the firing, and how they’ve behaved up to this point, but I don’t see any good reason to make someone be there all day long.

    1. KEBDAL23*

      I think yours was the comment that made the most sense in this whole thread. Doing it right before lunch is the most inconspicuous time and most people are away from the area also. I’ve seen the writing on the wall right now where I’ve worked for the past 18 years, there is a woman co-worker who has a vendetta against me. I cleared out all my stuff, and everything that is here is packed in a small box under my desk. I would need less than 3 minutes to clear out. Today, my boss changed a standing meeting that we have to 4PM on a Thursday. My guard is definitely up but I’d like to think I’m mentally prepared. I would prefer to be let go right away in the morning, before lunch makes the most sense to me however. The end of the day would make me angry, why put it off??

  18. Nanc*

    The second sentence of the answer: “The argument for doing it at the start of the day is that it can feel like a slap in the face if the person has just put in a full day’s work, not knowing that they’re about to be fired.”

    Shouldn’t it be END of the day rather than start?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope — the argument for doing it at the start of the day is that if you don’t (and therefore do it at the end of the day), the person has worked a full day and it feels like a slap in the face. But I could have been clearer in my wording.

  19. krm*

    I was laid off first thing in the morning, on a Tuesday. I was given the option of packing up my things immediately, having my boss/coworkers pack my things and drop them off at my house (it was a small office and I had known my boss personally for many years before I was hired), or to keep my key and come back that night to pack my things up privately and turn my key in when I was done. I decided to come back that night. He asked everyone to leave promptly at 5 that evening, so that I could pack my things in private. My computer privileges had been revoked, but he worked with the IT team to get me all of the items on my computer that I would need, email addresses and phone numbers for contacts, and also allowed me to take samples of work that I had done, and helped me quantify some metrics for my resume. He went way above what I had expected him to, but it was a company wide layoff that he had no choice but to participate in. I was able to preserve my dignity, and feel I was treated very compassionately.

    1. Nanc*

      I feel odd saying this, but that was a great boss. A lesson in how to handle this if you ever have to do it in future.

      1. krm*

        He really was. We are still in contact- we actually met for happy hour last night. He was instrumental in me getting another position quickly as well.

    2. krm*

      It was also nice that I was able to go home to an empty house and wrap my head around everything- it was a completely unexpected layoff for everyone involved. My boss had gotten a phone call the night before, on his personal cell phone, letting him know that he had to let one person go the next day.

  20. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I also want to add that there are potentially issues with always doing firings on the same day, if your staff starts to notice that. Early in my career, I worked somewhere that fired a lot of people and always did it on a Friday afternoon. Always, to the point that it had become a morbid joke around the office. One Friday, I was coming back from lunch and my security code to get into my section of the building didn’t work. I was absolutely convinced that it was because I was about to be fired and totally panicked. (It turned out to just be a weird glitch with my code.)

    You don’t want your employees panicking on Friday afternoons if something seems a little weird.

    1. De Minimis*

      Yeah, we always joked about “Black Friday.”

      Though I wasn’t fired on Friday so I guess they decided to start changing it up since it was obvious they were going to be letting a lot of people go.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        One of my first jobs had a Black Friday too. It was a smallish organization and for some reason they laid someone off every Friday for like 4 months. Around 2pm everyone would start getting jumpy/looking around for who would be leaving with a box.

    2. Joey*

      I feel the same way about asking HR to be in the room. don’t ask them to only be around when you fire people. People pick up on that and freak anytime they see an HR person around “uh oh, who’s about to get fired?”

      1. De Minimis*

        Our workplace had a smart way of doing that, each employee group had its own dedicated HR person who had an office alongside everyone else, so they were seen more as part of the team, not some separate authority figure.

      2. BananaPants*

        We had unexpected layoffs just around 2 years ago now, roughly a 10% reduction. They were the first layoffs in our organization in around 14 years, so I’d never been through them as an employee. The terminations were in the morning on the first day of a pay period. All of the termination meetings had been blocked in conference rooms as “HR Meeting” in 15 minute blocks, with employees being invited to a meeting with their boss and HR manager.

        You can guess what happened – around two weeks later I was invited to a 15 minute “HR Meeting” with my boss and HR manager in the morning, on the first day of a pay period, and I flat-out panicked! I was pregnant and my husband had lost his job a week before my employer’s layoffs, so I was already on edge. I got to the meeting with a lot of similarly freaked-out coworkers, only to learn that it was actually an awards ceremony for the fall college recruiting effort! We kindly let the HR manager know that in light of recent events, sending a cryptic meeting request of that nature with the subject “HR Meeting” was probably a poor choice.

        Corporate HR’s goal was to accomplish the layoffs so that none of the surviving employees knew what was happening until it was over – which was unreasonable given our work environment and how the terminations were done (individually due to limited HR staff and some managers having to terminate multiple employees). It ended up causing the rumor mill to shift into overdrive and caused great stress among the 90% of surviving employees who realized what was going on and sweated out that morning waiting to see if we were next.

    3. Oryx*

      When we were going through a merger with another location, our boss was overseeing both and eventually started spending more time at the other site instead of the one that was on its way out, which is where I was before being transfered.

      Anyway, he’d start only coming to our location when he was going to fire somebody so whenever word got around that he was going to be there that day everyone was in panic mode.

    4. Natalie*

      I had a similar experience with a significant downsize at my company. We all knew a layoff was imminent (the whole thing played out in the business press so it was hard not to know what was going on) so my boss scheduled 30 minute meetings with everyone. Since my desk faces the conference room door, I quickly noticed that people who were being retained met with him for 5-10 minutes, while people who were being terminated took the full 30.

      It was pretty uncomfortable, so I started finding reasons to be at the copier or in the bathroom when they walked out of the conference room.

    5. Kyrielle*

      Also, if you set up a pattern of events. For example, we’re a satellite office. Someone from corporate – usually the VP of our division – always visits for layoffs. Which led to my having to talk a coworker down when he freaked because our VP was visiting, once, when there were financial concerns and he knew about it. Luckily, the VP was taking us all out to lunch and that was scheduled and known, so I was able to point out that the layoff trips also _never_ coincided with celebratory events or anything costing money (other than getting the person handling it to our office, of course).

      Yeah, kind of bad when “our VP is visiting!” becomes the “uh oh, someone might get laid off” signal. Our VP now visits more often, and people have stopped twitching when a visit is scheduled.

  21. CJB*

    Long story short – my last job laid me off. I worked from home and my supervisor met with me at a hotel and via web conference, the higher ups told me they would like me to relocate or resign. This was done on Friday at 8 am – on the last day of the month – so that my salary, insurance and benefits would be stopped by end of day. Not to mention my phone (used for personal and work) and computer were taken away.

    If I had decided to stay on, then all benefits would resume without any interruptions, but at the time I did not want to make that commitment (and I ended up leaving the company anyway) I know this is a common practice in a lot of companies – but in my experience it was very stressful. I was pregnant at the time and HR was in and out of meetings during the day – leaving me without easy access to get questions answered. I was told if I chose to go on COBRA or my husband’s insurance, the coverage would be backdated so I would be covered if anything had happened over the weekend. But dealing with my impending ultimatum and being without a way to communicate to HR was horrible and really left a bad taste in my mouth about the organization.

    Granted this is a more unusual situation but all in all, I think it would be a better transition to let someone go earlier in the week – that way they have a couple of days to tie up loose ends and mentally clear their head before looking at their options.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      If this is the first you had heard of “relocate or resign,” the company handled this REALLY poorly. It sounds like you were a valued employee, so they should have had discussions with you about relocation long before it came to the point of “do it or else.”

  22. AMYR*

    I was once let go in the middle of the day when I was in the middle of a very large and very messy file re-organization (this company did EVERYTHING on paper). I bet they wish they had gotten to me in the morning before I started working!

    1. BRR*

      I was let go and was super behind on my filing. Knowing the organization I knew it was going to be sitting there for the next person they hire as they don’t clean out desks before new comers. I felt bad for whoever got the job next but I felt real good about leaving all of the filing behind.

  23. brbgrrl*

    In my early twenties, I was ‘let go’ twice, or “laid off” as it was – both around the early 2000’s due to a massive downfall in tech in the small city I was living in. The first time I was laid off, it was right after a huge bankruptcy in our parent company, and our company was going through an upheaval. My co-worker (a male who held the exact same position but had worked there for less time – I got them the job) was allowed to keep his position because he had a family and it was thought that because I was single, I would be able to have it easier in finding a new job/less stress. My immediate supervisor took the day off so they wouldn’t have to tell me because they (later said) they felt awful that they had to choose, and the company had a taxi wait at the front of the office while the Monday meeting was occurring. I had to ask them to have the taxi come around to the back because I was so mortified that they wanted to make a show of it. I should have seen it coming because everyone else they ‘let go’ they also made a show of it/had a party/got beers. My first experience of life in a small company. The next small tech company that I got ‘laid off’ at, the owner actually left me a letter on my chair in an envelope telling me that I was laid off for me to see when I came in that morning. I actually had to go into his office and ask him if the letter was what I thought it was… He was sheepish and apologized, and explained that he didn’t know how to say it, but honestly – what do you do in that situation? Be happy that you’re walking away from a poorly managed company, I guess. After working in tech for almost seven years, I decided to just take a break and regroup. I’m in tech again and have been at the same job for over ten years and am appreciated. Both of these experiences have helped me to stand up for myself in these types of situations and be the bigger person – neither of these companies had a proper HR department unfortunately or maybe both situations would have been handled better… I can’t imagine being at a job and that happening now… but I’m sure there are more stories like this.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          We did that at a publication I worked for–when people were leaving (quitting openly, not in a storm of emotion, but leaving for whatever reason), we had going-away food days. They had one for me when I decided to leave. I was so stressed out from the job changing from customer service to a more sales-oriented slant that I had a talk with my boss and we agreed it was time for me to go.

          There were no hard feelings–much later, I ended up temping there again part-time for six weeks, covering someone who had gone on maternity leave, after my new job shut its doors. In fact, I worked a shift on 9/11. We were open, but someone brought a little TV in and we got NO work done and only two calls that day.

    1. Kelly*

      I hate using the John/Jane has a family excuse so they won’t be laid off. The person who is least productive, whether they are have a family or are single should be the one let go. It’s also irritating when the younger person is let go because the company is scared that their older coworkers may sue for age discrimination.

  24. Seal*

    This is from academia, which has been previously stated handles many things differently. A former colleague was on a continuous appointment track, which is similar to tenure. Basically, you get 6 years to fulfill the criteria for getting continuous appointment, which includes things like job performance, professional activities, and publishing. It’s not supposed to be a way to weed people out; people are hired based on their perceived ability to meet the criteria for continuous appointment. It is expected that you will get support and guidance from your immediate supervisor as well as mentors.

    This colleague, who was new to the profession (librarianship), had the misfortune to have not one but two terrible supervisors. The first was burned out on his job and wanted nothing to do with his new employee, so he left him largely to his own devices. After his first supervisor was inexplicably promoted, his new supervisor turned out to be an incompetent bully with wildly unrealistic expectations about what he should be accomplishing in a single day. They had weekly one-on-one meetings where all his supervisor would do was yell at him about his lack of productivity and work ethic. Any attempts to demonstrate on his part to demonstrate through statistics and best practices documents from elsewhere in the library that this woman was in fact very wrong in her assessment of his contributions were either ignored or discredited. Eventually she conspired with the administration to get him fired on trumped-up charges revolving around her belief that he could not possibly get continuous appointment, completely ignoring the fact that he was in fact fulfilling all of the requirements and then some. The kicker is that to be “fair” they gave him a year from the time they fired him to find another job. He couldn’t afford to not work while he was job hunting and the administration refused to transfer him to another department in the interim, so he had to come into work every day and face his crazy boss who made no secret that she hated him and wanted him gone. He made a point of being professional to her and going well above and beyond for the rest of the time he was there just to prove a point; many people outside of his department noticed. After 8-9 months he found a much better job and gave 2 weeks notice (the standard for academia is at least a month), and took most of that time as vacation. Perhaps not surprisingly his crazy boss was demoted soon afterward; her reputation has never recovered.

    I have to give the guy credit for making a point of being a professional while being treated so poorly; I can’t say that I would have done the same if I were forced into a similar circumstance.

    1. Beebs*

      Not exactly the same, but if someone is denied tenure he or she is usually given one year (often given the charming moniker “terminal year”) to find another job. Given the academic hiring cycle, it would be virtually impossible for someone to find a new FT job without a year lead time, so it’s meant to be helpful and I suppose it is. But it would suck, no matter what.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        A friend of mine was put on one of those after failing to make tenure. Then they got a new department head halfway through that year who encouraged her to try again, and she got tenure on the second attempt, *just* before she had to decide about a job offer thousands of miles away (she didn’t want to move).

  25. Letter Writer*

    Thank you Alison for posting my question and your thoughtful answer. Thanks also to everyone who responded and shared their opinions and experiences.

  26. r*

    My old company used to routinely fire employeees without ever acknowledging to the rest of the office that the employee was no longer working there. It was a smallish office (30ish employees) so it wasn’t as if a faceless person had suddenly disappeared. They did this for everyone, including one senior staff member who had worked for the company for more than two decades. It led to a ton of gossip and confusion. My current office sends a very quick note to all staff saying such and such is no longer emplyed with the firm. It gets the job done without disclosing too many details.

    1. JMegan*

      Absolutely. My old office did this too. Of course, it’s pretty easy to figure out the code. If someone is leaving voluntarily, the message will go out before the person leaves, and include phrases liked “mixed emotions” and “sorry to see her go,” as well as a short summary of their time there and some of their accomplishments.

      If a person has been fired, the email that goes out is short and sweet: “JMegan’s last day with Teapots Inc was yesterday. We wish her well in future endeavours.”

      But even at that, it’s still better to communicate it, than not!

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        About 4 years ago, the COO of my company left to pursue an opportunity in Australia. He was a great guy, and very well liked by just about everyone. When his resignation was announced, the CEO sent out a very long email talking about this guy’s accomplishments, contributions, how much he would be missed, and so on.

        2 weeks later, the HR VP really stepped in it somehow, and must have made a blunder of epic proportions, because she was suddenly fired, and no one knew any of the details. And everyone knew it was a firing because his email about this was a one-liner: “Jane Smith is no longer a Company employee.” It really stuck out, given that his glowing email about the COO had been sent out so recently.

    2. Oryx*

      My company still does this and because of the nature of our work, there are a lot of seasonal type employees who will work off and on throughout the year so when you don’t see someone around for a few weeks it’s impossible to know if they’re just on one of their “off” sessions or have been fired/laid off

    3. Sans*

      Oh yeah, at my last company, my ex-boss took it personally when people left. She would tell you not to tell anyone else until she said it was okay … and then she would never say it was okay. And she wouldn’t even tell the rest of the dept. And since the dept was in several different cities and some 100% remote employees, there were occasions where someone was gone … and half the dept. didn’t even know.

      By the time I left, everyone knew her pattern. I gave it a few days after my notice, but then I started telling people who I thought ought to know. Our dept supported several other depts, and they would have been really upset not to have been told at all.

      I know I’m talking about voluntary job change and not layoffs or firings, but it’s odd in any case not to tell anyone about it.

    4. Lizzie*

      My last job did this, too – and we only had four employees, two of whom (me and Wakeen, the one who got fired) were the primary client-facing employees. When Wakeen didn’t show up for a couple days, I assumed he was ill, but after a week clients started asking where he was and why they weren’t able to get in touch with him. The boss then told me (lied?) that he was taking time off to deal with family issues, and then after two weeks finally admitted to me that they’d “had to let him go.” But nobody ever told the clients this, and I was under strict orders to say that he was dealing with family issues and to not address whether he was coming back or not (despite the fact that he’d clearly been fired). It was very weird (but indicative of how terrible communication was at that company, in retrospect…).

  27. Jamie*

    I was fired without warning on a Friday. I don’t recommend it. I spent that day dealing with the shock of being fired (I’d received no feedback that they weren’t happy, etc. — I had a new boss and I think it was more new management than anything I’d done) and then had to sit and stew all weekend long before starting my networking on Monday. I would have preferred to have it happen earlier in the week so I could have gotten over the shock and then gotten networking as soon as possible.

    Actually, I would have preferred some warning that my job was in jeopardy, but that’s neither here nor there. :) I landed in a better job anyway, with more benefits, respect, and normal, kind managers.

    1. BRR*

      My situation was the same. No warning (in fact only praise). Got better job. Although I was fired on a Thursday and I like it. This is part of the there’s no right answer as to when, only a right answer as how to handle it.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      Yep. Had that somewhat at LastJob. Was let go without warning. I had been made aware of some performance issues two weeks before I was let go but it wasn’t presented in a manner where I thought my job was in jeopardy, just that I had a few issues to work on. Two weeks later I was brought into a meeting saying my performance issues hadn’t improved and I was told I needed to clear out my desk and leave immediately. I also worked under new/inexperienced management and that team really wasn’t all that forthcoming with feedback.

  28. The Maple Teacup*

    I was once terminated without cause, and this is how it went….

    I showed up for work as normal on the first day of my rotation. Early in the morning, my coworkers were radioed up one by one to the manager’s office. Management was warning them I was about to leave the organization. Around 11:00m, I was called up and terminated. (Surprise!!!) I then gathered my lunch from the break room. I was given the option of leaving quietly through the back door, or more visibly from the front. I chose to leave through the front and say goodbye on my way out. This occurred on a Tuesday.

    I would have preferred to be terminated at the end of the day. It’s the proper time to conclude things (so says my brain preferences). I remember in the termination meeting feeling completely bewildered and actually asked “What am I supposed to do for the rest of the day?” The termination as a whole was quite sudden and it took me about four days to process it. There probably isn’t a totally correct way to perform a termination.

  29. D*

    I have never been fired/fired anyone, but if I had to…

    I’d probably do it early/mid morning. Say 10am on a quiet day (assuming this is a standard 9-5 and the person hasn’t been in since 7am), where the individual hasn’t started their day properly yet and is only still going through emails, planning out the day, etc. That way they’ve not put in a significant amount of work, and by the time you have the meeting, do any paperwork, etc. the person can leave at lunch when no one will really notice as everyone is busy coming and going.

    Although I guess this is the type of thing that depends solely on the workplace and the culture, judging by the above comments. No time of day is the right time of day to fire someone if you’re a loon.

      1. D*

        Ha well I’m not, but that’s not really relevant to my point.

        I meant that for a lot of people who aren’t in high stress or busy jobs, it’s not exactly uncommon to get in at 9, chit chat with colleagues, make some coffee, etc. and still be catching up on emails or doing minor tasks at 10am. I’m not saying they’re doing jack all, but it’s different to someone who is working on a high profile project or has been doing something ultra demanding all day.

        I have a pretty demanding job, but there’s still plenty of times where I ease myself into the day a little, especially if I’m just going through emails or organising stuff for a meeting, etc.

        1. LawBee*

          My brain doesn’t really get rolling until mid morning, so coming in at 8am would be pointless. I’m better getting here around 9:30, taking time to plan my day, and then staying as late as I need to.

  30. SerfinUSA*

    I’ve been through a few re-org/tech crash/buy-out layoffs over the years.

    One company, a young, had to lay off 25% of staff in a bunch. They had us all meet in a conference room, explained the situation, had a career counselor help us with resumes, gave us a fair severance check, and let us pack up and go over the course of the day.

    Another company was bought by a national ubercompany and a biggish contingent of people were let go almost immediately with no warning. While they were getting frog-marched out of the building (here’s a box, we’ll watch you pack, now turn off your computer, hand over your keys, and leave), the rest of us were sat down for a teleconference from the new head office. They smarmed us about how sad and unavoidable the whole thing was, but not to worry, rainbows and ponies are just over the horizon.
    One young man decided to go ahead with the house purchase he (and his stay-at-home wife & newborn) were in the midst of. He was off work that Friday and called in to ask why his automatic paycheck deposit was early a very large. Oops!! Admin cut his severance check but forgot to let him know he was let go before it hit his bank. He was so pissed that they knew he was house shopping and ‘let’ him commit to a mortgage, knowing full well he was on the cut list.
    I ended up getting let go in a later round, and still got the frog march treatment.

  31. SerfinUSA*

    I also meant to share a bit of advice (yeah, I am a bit PTSD about surprise layoffs now)…always funnel any personal stuff you keep on a work computer into a folder that is easily parked on a flash drive if need be, or easy for a manager or IT person to locate and email. I also save that stuff on a drive each time I run a back up, just because. Dropbox works too.

  32. Bend & Snap*

    I’ve only been let go once, but if was from a tiny, poorly managed company. I had just gotten a raise and a good performance review.

    I heard the partners in the conference room talking about terminating me on a Thursday. Our HR consultant came in every Wednesday so I figured out that’s when they were going to do it.

    I wrapped up all my work so as not to screw my colleagues, made it through the firing–only the HR consultant–without crying and turned in my key to the owner, who wouldn’t look at me. The HR consultant told me I wasn’t performing and the next day I got an email for the owner apologizing for not having the resources to support my position any longer. So that was confusing.

    These people called me for weeks to ask questions about where things were, etc. They hadn’t paid out my vacation yet so I helped.

    All in all it was drawn out and confusing. Not a great way to end things from a peace of mind perspective.

    1. Jamie*

      Wait, they were talking about your termination and you overheard them?! I would have been tempted to pack up and offer to leave right then. Talk about living on edge for a few days.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        YES! I was really young and felt powerless so I just waited them out. It was the end of 18 months of mental terrorism and in a short time I went on to find a job I stayed at and was successful in for 8 years. So it was a blessing in disguise, but a ROUGH few weeks.

        1. Elizabeth West*


          The nonprofit FedEx firing—it wasn’t actually a surprise, because I had been looking and the day before I got the letter, I saw an ad for my job in the paper. The company wasn’t listed, but I recognized the job description. So I knew it was coming.

          Funny, they had a blind ad for a different job during my recent layoff, and though I don’t like responding to those, I did anyway, to make the weekly quota for UI. Someone called me from there to schedule an interview–clearly without looking at the second page of my resume, where the organization was listed! They had changed their name so I didn’t make the connection until she said, “We used to be X.” I was tempted to laugh, but I didn’t; I explained very politely that I had worked there once before, it was on my resume, and it hadn’t worked out, so I was not interested in coming back. She was so embarrassed, but I said, it’s okay, you probably wouldn’t have known that, have a great day, thanks for calling anyway. >_<

  33. FakeName*

    I was let go from my last job, and I want to share this story because it’s indicative of how one organization can be spot on in some respects and so off base in others.

    At about the six month mark at this job, I was called into a meeting with the two big bosses and the HR rep. In that meeting I was berated and made to feel like a complete failure, despite the fact that this was my first “real” job out of grad school and I did not receive training in the company’s area of expertise (and I had asked for help). I was aware that I had made some mistakes, but I was shell-shocked to learn that my job was in jeopardy. I was told that I had a month to try to turn things around, and the issue would be revisited then.

    For the next several weeks, I worked my tail off and checked in regularly with my bosses (it was a top heavy organization). A month came and went with no further discussion of the issue, so I thought that I had successfully improved enough to save my job. I continued to work very hard, but felt some relief.

    The first full work week in January after the holidays, about 3.5 months after that first meeting, my extension rang at 5pm on the dot on Thursday and I was called to the conference room. The two big bosses (with the HR rep) told me that while I had made good progress, it ultimately wasn’t enough and they were letting me go. They gave me 1 month of pay and benefits, as well as”employed” status for the month (which included me being listed on the company website until the month was up). I was told that my work responsibilities ended immediately and had the entire month to dedicate to a full-time job search. I was told that I had to return the company issued laptop and smartphone that day. Luckily I had copied many of my files after the initial meeting, so I quickly copied my recent work before turning in the equipment. I was allowed to keep my parking pass and told that I could use the office to print resumes, etc. (while a kind offer, I’m not sure why anyone would want to set foot again in an office that just let them go). Thanks to AAM, I did ask about what would be said if anyone were to call for a reference. I chose to pack my things immediately and the HR rep helped me bring everything downstairs so that I could put it in my car. I did not have to sign any paperwork.

    About a week later, I received a letter confirming the conversation (with the incorrect date of the meeting, but the correct last day of employment) and asking that I return the parking pass if I was not planning to use it. The kicker was that after another week or two, the HR rep called me to ask for my e-mail password, in case I had received ang important messages that needed to be addressed. This bugged me for a few reasons – (1) they should have addressed that in the meeting with me, (2) several weeks had passed without anyone checking the account, and (3) there has to be a way for IT to access my account or reset the password without losing all the content. I wondered about whether I was even obligated to give them the password, but since I had no personal messages on that account and didn’t really care, I told the HR rep what the password was and laughed about the situation afterward.

    The other thing that bothered me about the process was that I had been working on a substantial project for someone senior to me (but not senior enough to know or be involved about my being let go). I was told by the HR rep that the bosses had not told anyone that I was being let go, and I believe that even to this day. The person I was doing the project for had already left for the day by the time I got out of meeting with the bosses, so I always wondered what happened to that work. At the time there was only one other person at my level who was pretty overworked, and I hoped that the responsibility of picking up the pieces of that project didn’t fall to her, since I didn’t even have time to write a note or otherwise closing memo about what I had done.

    Ultimately, the experience was traumatizing for me at the time, but on the overall scale, this was done pretty well. I’m shocked to read some of these other stories.

    1. FakeName*

      The happy ending to this story is that I received multiple offers within the month and finalized/accepted one on the last day of my “employed” status. I’m still in this position today and have better bosses, receive consistent feedback and mentorship, and am paid a much higher salary. So as devastating as being let go can be, it can work out for the best down the road. It certainly did for me.

  34. claire*

    I was fired from my last job at the end of the day on a Friday. It was awful in the sense that I had put in a full day’s work and had been on several important conference calls – what was the point of all of that? I think the sooner in the day it is done, the better. Putting in a full day’s work only be told, “thanks but no thanks,” is an awful feeling. Especially when they don’t give you a reason. But that’s a different story for a different day.

    1. Joey*

      If you think about it though there’s not really an ideal time of day to be fired is there? Who wants to be told at the beginning of the day after just having started their day expecting to work?

      1. De Minimis*

        Yeah I’d actually rather just be fired over the phone than do that, so at least I wouldn’t have to go to all the trouble of coming in just to be fired as soon as I got there.

  35. Episkey*

    When I was laid off, the VP called me into her office on a Monday morning, about 45 min – an hour after I arrived. They told me they were laying me off and told me I could leave immediately for the day, but they wanted me to come back and work out 2 remaining weeks.

    It was good & bad — it was nice of them to let me go home and process for the day, but bad in a way because gossip was heavy in my office and some people claimed they saw me leaving by “storming out” (which was not true in the least). When a co-worker/friend mentioned that to me, I tried to nip that in the bud immediately, but it was difficult.

    Then I came back the next day to work out my 2 weeks and I tried to be as friendly/cordial/professional to everyone so that no one would think I was angry…in my case it worked well because I was actually relieved/glad to be getting laid off as I had been very unhappy in my position for some time, but didn’t want to quit and forfeit unemployment benefits. (I had been job searching, but not having much luck.)

    My layoff was in a round where other people were laid off as well and then another round of layoffs came several months later — I heard about it through former colleagues/friends still at the company. They handled things in the same manner for the next round and one employee WAS so upset that she literally came back in the middle of the night, cleared out her desk/office, left her key card/badge, and never returned to work out the 2 weeks.

    1. Kitchenalia*

      My organisation is currently in the midst of redundancies. Until now, there have been retirements, end of contracts, resignations, etc but now there are redundancies for some permanent/non-contract staff. I think management has been pretty upfront with us over the past 12 months that this was coming. However, I feel like they are *too* upfront with the people being laid off. They are required to give them notice (very pastoral sit-down meetings last Thursday, taxi voucher home, take Friday as paid leave) then expect them to return to work on Monday to work their notice, which is one month. Actually, it’s three months but management is offering two months paid redundancy after the month worked.

      I am assistant to one of the higher-ups so know a lot of what is happening behind the scenes. Now a week after being made redundant, nothing has been made public to the rest of the workforce (this has all taken place in the past week). The grapevine has been working overtime as there was no request for those in question to keep it confidential (why would they?).

      I feel so drained and I’m not being made redundant and there are miserable people everywhere. I’m not sure if this being handled well or not. Except it is excruciating to have the poor people still in the office! I can’t imagine how awful it must be for them. [end vent/rant]

  36. Amber Rose*

    We had an employee let go by passive aggressive letter last year. The boss left a note for him on the pile of next day’s work that he was not welcome and to turn in his truck keys.

    Another was forced to quit as he was given increasingly constricting rules and complaints until he couldn’t take it.

    Both were awful for everyone involved. Literally anything else would have been better. Focus on being professional and kind, and don’t sweat the small stuff like time of day.

  37. Elizabeth*

    My only experience with someone being fired began one Friday, my boss at the time came around to us individually and quietly asked us not to come in until 10am the next Monday (this was a small cultural non-profit and we were closed to the public on Mondays). Presumably the employee came in at 8:30 or 9, was let go, and was gone by the time the rest of us showed up at 10, at which point we were ushered into a meeting and told that she was no longer employed.

    1. De Minimis*

      I’m on the fence about that one….I guess it minimized embarrassment for the employee, but that must have been a weird feeling to come in on Monday and be immediately fired.

      Wonder what would have happened if one of the others had said something to the employee on Friday like “Guess we’ll see you at 10!” I think it was a risky way to handle it.

      1. Elizabeth*

        If I remember correctly, we were told to come in at 10 very late in the day (we may have even been politely asked not to discuss it with anyone? It’s been a few years now.) and I don’t remember the employee in question being there at the time–we were in an open-air office so we had a pretty good handle over who was there and who wasn’t. I’m not sure if her absence was by chance or if they arranged for her to be off-site at the end of the day so as to avoid those mishaps. But yeah, if you were to take this approach, I’d be very careful to have all your bases covered to as not to run into the issues you mentioned, and I certainly hope that was the case with my former employer.

  38. C Average*

    My company did a massive round of layoffs about six years ago. The layoff date was announced beforehand, so everyone knew what was coming and that it was going to be big, but no one knew which departments would be hit hardest.

    The people in my department at the time typically took escalation calls from our call center, so our normal office atmosphere involved ringing phones and low chatter. Our leadership decided to close the phones on the layoff day, as it was already going to be tense and chaotic and people would be leaving throughout the day.

    What they didn’t consider was that people about to be laid off would receive a phone call summoning them to their manager’s office. So if your phone rang, it was like the Grim Reaper pointing his bony finger at your cube. The rest of the place was in utter silence. Every so often a phone would ring, your colleague would march down the hall to the manager’s office (usually fighting tears or openly crying), return a short time later, pack up his or her boxes, and leave.

    It was awful, but all things considered, it could’ve been a lot worse.

    1. Sans*

      That reminds me of a layoff I survived, where it became quickly obvious that HR was calling the ones being layed off. One person refused to answer her phone. She said she wasn’t going to make it easy for them, and if they wanted to lay her off, they could come upstairs and get her.

      They eventually did. lol

      1. De Minimis*

        In my field at the time there was a standard drill that you got a phone call from a partner to meet in their office, and that was how you knew you’d reached the end. I did kind of wonder what would happen if you just didn’t answer. It probably would have gotten less nice and more awkward.

      2. Sherm*

        Yeah, I think I would have turned off my phone in such situations. I couldn’t take the agony of spending all day wondering if the phone would ring. Telephones stress me out on a normal day.

    2. Collarbone High*

      I knew people at a newspaper that did this — they told everyone to come into the office one morning (even people who worked nights) and sit at their desks, and HR called one person at a time. Newsrooms are the original open-plan office, so everyone could see and hear who had just been called. It was awful for everyone, but especially the night editors, who had nothing else to do but just sit and stare at the phone hoping it didn’t ring. The laid off people were marched through the newsroom by security, given 10 minutes to pack, and marched out. Needless to say nobody involved had warm and fuzzy feelings after that, and a lot of the survivors left out of disgust.

  39. Sans*

    When I was laid off six years ago, it was at the end of a very busy and stressful day. I was a bit pissed, because I felt like they wanted to get more work out of me before they let me go. Other than that, it was handled okay. I made an appt with the HR person to come back the following week and get my stuff.

    1. Stephanie*


      I think it can feel like no one else ever gets fired when it happens to you, so it’s nice to hear others’ stories.

      1. BRR*

        I know I thought only terrible people get fired but now I know that it happens to a lot of people who are great and can go on to thrive.

        1. Stephanie*

          I think because the popular perception of firings is The Apprentice-style firings due to gross incompetence, when the reality is far more nuanced.

          I don’t think anyone would tune into The Apprentice if Donald Trump was like “You know, D-List Celebrity, your marketing plan for this Sponsored Product wasn’t very focused. We’re going to put you on PIP for the next three episodes and revisit during Sweeps Week. If your performance marketing the next Sponsored Product does not adhere to the PIP, your tenure on The Celebrity Apprentice will be in danger.”

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Exactly. The first time I was fired from a job I honestly believed I would never be able to get another job again. I couldn’t even bring myself to complete job applications for two months, I felt so guilty and worthless. (I was 20 and I was spending summer at my parents’ house, so I just pretty much spent the rest of the summer hiding.)

    2. BRR*

      I feel like this is a sort of airing of grievances. It’s been quite enjoyable to read and participate in this thread.

  40. Interviewer*

    A few years ago I helped the HR team with a mass layoff. Once the individual meeting was over, I escorted the employee back to his desk to get his things. I escorted about 5 people that day. One young guy who was barely 20, was treated like a surrogate son by the other people in his department. He handled the layoff meeting very professionally – shook hands and thanked the HR Director for the opportunity to work for the company. When he came back to the work area to get his things, with me tagging along, his co-workers hugged him, formed a circle around him and one of them led the group in prayer for him. I had to step around the corner to wipe away a few tears.

    Sometimes you do want to let co-workers say goodbye. You just never know.

  41. Sadsack*

    I think that if this was a firing, as opposed to being laid off, the employer was trying to be sensitive to the person being let go. If I were fired, I wouldn’t want people looking at me and telling me they are sorry while I am trying to gather my belongings without crying. So, I would be grateful that no one is around, even if I realize that they all know and will talk about me later.

  42. illini02*

    Well the only time I was let go, it was at the end of the school year when basically everyone was finding out their status for next school year. It wasn’t the absolute last day, but close enough where it was fine. I took my things home slowly, but had a few days left to “work” (as most teachers know, the last few days after grades are turned in but before kids leave is pretty pointless). However, at current job, they fired someone on like a Tuesday or Wednesday. It was done at the end VERY end of the day, where by the time their meeting was over, most others had gone home.

    I think Fridays are better though, just because doing it on a Monday, its more like “why the hell did I get out of bed after the weekend”.

  43. AnotherHRPro*

    I find that their is no universal best time/day or process. It really depends on the situation and people involved.
    You want to take into consideration the type of employee they have been, their personality, if they have close work friends, the type of termination (is it a surprise, long term performance issue or layoff). One size does not fit all. The one thing that never changes is how you treat them. It does not matter why they are being let go, they should be treated with the upmost respect and empathy. Do whatever you can to make the process easier for them. Ask them how they want to handle things (if appropriate). Give them choices if at all possible. This will help them leave graciously and professionally while saving face.

    1. Joey*

      There are some exceptions to that for me.

      I’ve had people escorted out by security, had a police officer standing by once, and I’ve also fired people via phone with a follow up mailed letter because I don’t want them to return even to be fired.

      The safety and wellbeing of employees and of company assets is more important than allowing someone to leave with dignity.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        I agree and have had similar situations. When their is a safety issue, that has to be the priority. And when people aren’t there to fire, the conversation via phone with follow-up letter are necessary. But even in these cases, it is important to treat them with respect. We can not control their actions but we try to mitigate any issues that can occur. We have complete control on how we respond and if we treat them well.

  44. Seashell*

    I was laid off on a Monday morning. I guess some had started the previous Friday afternoon but I wasn’t in that day (OF COURSE) so I heard about it on Monday, and then within the hour I got my phone call. They turned off our computers when we were in the meeting and then after a bunch of us got our packets we went back to our desks and had cardboard boxes waiting. To add insult to injury I dropped the box right outside my apartment building and it spilled everywhere.

  45. nerfmobile*

    I have a how-not-to-handle-it story, too. About 8 years ago I worked for a massive company which was undergoing a second round of significant layoffs. I was pretty sure the writing was on the wall for me, but hope springs eternal. Anyway, my manager (we’ll call her Dana) was based in a different location than me – she also supervised 2 or 3 other people at my site. They staggered the layoff announcement days for the company so that remote managers could travel around and tell all their people in person. On “layoff day”, everyone was scheduled for a one-on-one with their manager to discover whether they were being let go or not – people who were being kept on used the time for a project discussion about what they would be doing with the new structure.

    Anyway, my manager, Dana, was supposed to fly in that morning and meet with her people at my site that afternoon. However, Dana woke up ill and decided not to travel. Over the course of the morning she IMed the others who reported to her and they went off to meeting rooms and had brief phone conversations with her, coming back all relieved and happy they would be staying on. By 11 am or so Dana had still not contacted me, though I could see she was online via IM. So I pinged her to note that I was free and if she wanted to chat with me now we could do so. I got back a quick “Sorry can’t do that” and she dropped offline. Obviously the message was loud and clear at that point. My coworkers in the office were nicely sympathetic – they took me to lunch, and then I went for a walk by myself (mostly so they wouldn’t feel the need to keep being sympathetic until my scheduled meeting time). At 2pm I reported to my scheduled conference room, where Dana was on the phone and a more senior manager at the site was physically in the room – the delay until the scheduled time was so they could make sure someone was there in person. Which was considerate, but the effect was rather destroyed by the events earlier in the day.

    Because it was a big layoff, they had decent packages, and let you stay onsite with computer and phone for the next month to hand off projects and begin your job search. But the way Dana handled the timing was not good, and although I’m connected to most of the people from that job via Linked In now, I don’t connect to her no matter how many times Linked In suggests her to me….

    1. BRR*

      I wish there was a feature on LinkedIn to turn off recommending your former boss who fired you. Although after I got awesome new job I was tempted to do it :D.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        There is—it’s called Delete my account. :P

        I’m seriously about to do this. I keep getting pinged to connect with the supply manager at an old job and no, because he’s a smarmy git. And I never look at it anymore.

    2. Get the hell out of my light cone!*

      Golly, reading this thread has certainly motivated me to back up my computer! (Yeah, shame on me for putting personal stuff on my work computer)

      Interesting story, nerfmobile, and thanks. I work from home, and my employer has a site that’s about 10 minutes away by car. But my boss and most of my co-workers are in another state about 1,000 miles away. I’m the only member of my group at this location. In fact, I might be the senior member of my division at this site – scary thought. I sometimes wonder how it would go if I were fired or laid off – I’ve suspected that my boss flying into town would be the first sign. I honestly don’t know how it would go. I think my boss – who is a genuinely nice fellow – would be seriously troubled if the company forced him to delegate the task, or do it over the phone or Skype or whatever. It’s an honor thing: if he couldn’t give me the news face-to-face, man-to-man … yeesh, he’d probably be more messed up about it than me!

      There are rumors of big big lay-offs at my company next week. Nothing I can do but wait and see.

      If there’s one positive thing about some of the rather horrible stories I’ve just read, I think it’s that most people aren’t very good at being truly shitty to each other. In many of the tales where someone acted like a jerk, I get the sense that the boss (or whoever is acting up) is not coping well with the odious task they’ve been charged with. Which is not to let them off the hook. Just: people are typically bad at performing tasks they dislike. Unfortunately, firing an employee in a humane, decent manner appears to be a skill that not many people possess.

  46. Mngreeneyes*

    I have been let go 3 times I my career. The first time I was a high school teacher and was told that my contract was going to be recommended for nonrenewal at 8:00 am and expected to teach my 8:05 class! I was also responsible for teaching the final weeks of the school year.

    The second time I was fired just before lunch. I was escorted out and was not allowed to even let my lunch companion know I would not be at lunch. (Not a teaching position)

    The third time also was ate hing position. I was told during a teacher work and had to come back the next weekend with a pickup and some muscle to clean out my room. Because there were no students at school I was not allowed to say goodbye to my students or colleagues. I later heard from some of them about the rumors when I suddenly disappeared mid year.

    I would have welcomed dignity in any of those situations. I was very thankful for my fellow teachers in the first situation because they helped me get through the first few days. Especially being cut off from my teaching colleagues in the third case because I had no one nearby – family or friends-so my colleagues were the only people I knew. They were afraid to talk to me for fear of their own jobs. The principal knew that I was alone and my written warning and dismissal specifically said I could only talk to my confessor/pastor. (It was a parochial school).

    Sorry that got long.

    1. Dorth Vader*

      Ah, that first situation happened to one of my mentor teachers in college. She found out in the morning or at lunch that she wasn’t being brought back and then had to not only teach preschool but mentor college students the rest of the day. We were able to commiserate at my end of the year evaluation about how hard it was to maintain professionalism and be good teachers in the face of bad news (I’d found out one day right before going in that my grandfather had cancer [or something similar; a lot of bad stuff happened that year] and still had to teach my four hours). We’re still in touch and she has a better job now where she doesn’t have to deal with college students ;)

      1. De Minimis*

        I had a professor who found out mid-year that he wasn’t going to have his contract renewed. He ended up really phoning it in for his final semester, just giving everyone a 100 on the last exam so very few of them would need to take the final, which was optional.

        It was bad too because it was a pretty important class with a lot of key concepts.

  47. Unmitigated Gal*

    I worked at an organization who tried to avoid firing someone on a Friday. They felt that left the person too vulnerable. The concern was that if the person lived alone, or didn’t have the resources to help him/her cope with the termination, what might happen to the person? The company didn’t want the person stewing about it all weekend, I guess. I am not sure if that was warranted, but at least it showed the put thought into it.

    In most places I have worked, there was an attempt to terminate the person at whatever time of day would be least embarrassing to the employee and least disruptive to the workplace. Often, this was lunch time or late in the day, when fewer people were at their desks.

    1. Zillah*

      But… if the person lived alone or didn’t have resources, how would being fired mid-week help? Would their support system be more likely to be available for them on the weekend?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        They’d at least be able to get busy with job hunting activities–going to the career center, etc.– or get some other errands done while those places are open, instead of staring at the wall and not being able to do anything until Monday. It sucks to feel hamstrung for two days like that.

  48. OneOfMany*

    One Tuesday morning I was taken to another area of the office away from coworkers, given the management line and a whole bunch of paperwork to take and read and was then escorted from the building. My purse and coat were brought to me, I was physically blocked from returning to my desk. I had to make arranegements to come back the next week after hours for my personal belongings.
    I was fourth of about a dozen let go that day.

  49. SouthernBelle*

    I’ve been the person doing the firing, the person watching people get fired and the person being laid off – all of which had its own level of suckage. When I had to fire people for performance issues, I did it in the morning – one, because their performance was really bad and I didn’t want more messes to clean up and two, because I think it’s really cruel to have people work all day just to be fired at the end. At my last job I watched the senior-most person in the office and her assistant get fired and that was uncomfortable because I was asked to proofread/edit the firing letters earlier in the day and neither of them knew it was coming (nor did anyone else in the office) and I had to maintain a “no nothing” demeanor during the commotion. It was a mess and it was on payday!! Then, with that same job, when they made pre-layoff decisions that closed the entire office (there were only two of us left), it was done over the phone, at the end of the day and on the last day of the month. It was literally, “Don’t come back to the office until we call you and say it’s ok.” So I advised my assistant to take all of her personal stuff with her and I did the same, since I could see the writing on the wall. And then when the final layoff happened, it was done through text message.

    There are a lot of schools of thought when it comes to this and I’d say that a lot of people get it wrong. They tend to forget that for a lot of folks, it’s not “just business”, especially if you try to develop a company culture where we’re all “family” and whatnot.

      1. SouthernBelle*

        Yep! It wasn’t a surprise since the pay was coming later and later each pay period, but the layoff was through a text message which basically said, “We can’t afford to pay you past this date.” To this day, I haven’t received any formal documentation regarding my employment with that organization, I still have my keys and entry badge and I still have access to my company email and other online accounts, and this happened over 6 months ago.

  50. Ali*

    I got let go on a Tuesday once about six years ago. I was in a job and worked with another girl who had my same job title. I began to feel frozen out when she was getting all the work and barely anyone was giving me responsibility, so I was frustrated as it was that I felt isolated. The job ended up being a bad culture fit overall, and I was let go at the end of the day. My manager tried to soften the blow by saying he’d been fired once too, but if I recall it right, I don’t know how much hearing that helped me.

    I’m now worried that I’m going to be fired again very soon. (I’ve talked at length here about my problems, and I found out yesterday that my employer posted my job on their job board!) So basically, I’m now going in each day just waiting for the axe to fall. It’s really uncomfortable and I kind of wish my boss had pulled the plug last week when he made it clear he wasn’t happy with my PIP progress.

    I do agree with some of the sensitivities other people could display. My boss said “Oh I hate doing this but we have to take more formal action against you.” YOU hate doing it?! Well sorry buddy, at least your job is secure…

  51. Lia*

    At a former job, one co-worker got her contract (we were all on yearly contracts) non-renewed for performance reasons. She was given six *months’* notice of this, but after three months, her performance started to decline and she quit showing up on a regular basis. Boss decided enough was enough and having her around was impacting the morale of the rest of the staff, so when she actually came in one day when she had about a month to go, he pulled me and our other staffer on-site that day aside and told us to leave two hours early that day, saying we had a meeting in a neighboring building, where the two of us legitimately did often have meetings. We left, boss called security to stand by, and co-worker packed up her stuff. They did pay her contract through to the end.


  52. JMG*

    I was fired on a Monday afternoon (and completely out of the blue. I hadn’t been written up or warned or anything). I think my boss was intending on firing me the prior Friday but I was out of the office with a family emergency. The extra terrible thing is that she had my replacement start the day I was let go.

  53. Anon for this one*

    I was fired this past Dec 2nd (a Tuesday), and in my particular situation, it probably couldn’t have been handled any better. I’d been feeling increasingly burnt out in the job (due in large part to the horrific commute every morning, which couldn’t be avoided because I was a government contractor with rigid, inflexible hours), so my performance had been suffering. I’d received warnings in the past, so it didn’t come as a shock – I’d actually been wondering what was going to happen first: me quitting or me getting fired.

    My project had to be wrapped up by the previous Friday, but something was missing from my immediate supervisor, and h’d already left for the day. Everything ended up being completed on Monday 12/1. Tuesday around 11am or noon my big boss came in to talk to me and laid everything out; he even gave me a chance to fight for my job (I couldn’t come up with a good enough reason because I was already sick of the place). I didn’t say anything, so he told me I was fired, and I had an hour to wrap everything up. All of my files were already saved on my thumb drive (I backed up throughout the year), so I just had to collect my papers and books, and take a final bioassay (I worked at Big Federal Research Facility with dangerous substances; they had to make sure I was still as healthy as when I started). All in all it was great, because POTUS was coming through that day, so all the major roads surrounding campus were about to be shut down around 2pm, which would’ve bled right into rush hour traffic. (If you’ve never sat in DMV rush hour, put your head in a vice, tighten, and sit like that for 3 hours. Same effect.) I was happy to be getting out before all that madness, but I’d still been there long enough to make up for all the gas I used coming in to work that morning (I think that particular day it took me 1.5 or 2 hours to get there….which, sadly, was about average).

    I’d always thought I’d like to be fired by phone, because what’d make me mad would be wasting gas to get to work, only to be told to turn around and go back home. This was the next best option. So, I guess there is no best time or day to fire someone, but at least attempt to pay them for half a day’s work (even if you let them go in the morning) to offset the gas used in the commute. Just my 2 cents.

    …now give me my 2 cents back because I need to go buy coffee :)

  54. Ann Furthermore*

    I worked for a large company once that did a layoff in the consulting division (which is not uncommon). The unwritten rule was that after you rolled off a project, you had about 45 days to find yourself another gig, otherwise, the chances of you being laid off went up significantly.

    Anyway — they did decide to eliminate some positions, but I thought they handled it pretty well. It was the beginning of December, and they told everyone they had until the first week of January to find themselves another job within the company, and if that didn’t happen they’d be laid off. So at least everyone knew what was (potentially) coming, and they had a chance to come up with a plan for what to do next. Plus since they were told at the beginning of December, they could plan accordingly and not spend a bunch of money on the holidays.

    It sucked all around, but it did seem like the higher-ups had at least put some thought into how to soften the blow.

  55. bas*

    Whenever you do it, make sure the people who need to be there are there. I fired a former employee on a Wednesday afternoon, and the people who were supposed to be at the meeting were me, my boss, and the HR rep. Day of, Boss remembers she has a meeting off-site, and her arrival time was cutting it close. We push back the meeting — the now former employee is all “WTF is going on??” since I was vague in my response to the question of “Why can’t we have this meeting without Boss?”

    HR rep and I are chatting when meeting is supposed to start in 10 minutes when Boss texts me that she’s still 30 minutes away. She ended up getting her boss to fill in, but being only 6 months into this job, I felt very abandoned, especially since it was not an easy firing. Terminated employee threw a huge fit, onsite police officers had to get involved, I got called a lot of nasty names, blah blah blah. I ended up locking myself in my office while police and HR dealt with him. An hour later, my boss strolled into my office and let me go home.

    Now that was a WTF Wednesday.

    1. The Toxic Avenger*

      Wow. That sounds terrible. You must have been stressed out to the gills. Total WTF. Your boss deserves the “you suck” award for that stunt!

  56. Staying anon for this one*

    I once unknowingly sat in on the interview for my own replacement. That was awkward.

  57. Kali*

    I was home from college on summer break after my freshman year, without a job lined up. In the past, I had worked doing receptionist-y/AA type things for the company that employed my dad. One day, I was lounging around at the pool when my dad called and asked if I wanted that job back for the summer. Sure, give me an hour and I’ll be there. He tells me they’re going to fire the woman who was working as the receptionist when she came in, but that would be before I showed up. She had attendance problems, was constantly late, and some other issues.

    I show up and am just getting settled in when a woman walks in the door, walks around the reception desk (which had a tall bar-like thing blocking my view of everything but her head), and comes back to where I was working. She looks at me and says, “This is MY desk.” Also, she’s eight months pregnant. They hadn’t fired her yet and I was the lucky one to tell her that the boss wanted to see her. Yeesh.

  58. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

    In a small office (20 people) of mostly young employees who all know each other and go out together, what’s the best way to tell everyone about why X employee isn’t coming back? Say the person is fired on a Thursday afternoon (as suggested by a lot of the comments here), they pack up and go home (no need to be escorted out or anything). Does the boss tell people the next morning? Does the boss tell the team-leads and they tell their staff? Does the boss just not say anything and let everyone figure it out?

    When firing someone people generally like (despite their performance issues), and its a close-knit office community, how do you talk to the group about it?

  59. Ed*

    With the exception of people who stole or embezzled (and do we really care how they feel about being fired?), I think the key is it shouldn’t ever truly be a surprise. The employee should have already been told point-blank “you are going to be terminated if don’t turn it around by…”.

    I would personally do it early on a Friday. I think it might be depressing to get up the day after being fired and think about your co-workers all going to work while you’re sitting at home in your pajamas.

  60. not my real nickname*

    I had a summer job as a teenager and was supervised by another teenager who was one year older than me. She took a dislike to another teen at the job who was our substitute in case any one of us couldn’t make it in one day. The sub didn’t do anything wrong and was perfectly nice, it was just a personality clash, jmo. Teen boss heard the sub talking about her birthday party and figured out that she was not invited to it so she made a point of calling the sub in the middle of her party and firing her over the phone while putting it on conference call so everyone could hear her firing the sub. I was pretty disgusted with teen boss. For the rest of the summer, we never could get another sub from the pool – go figure. I occasionally facebook stalk the teen boss and there are a lot of complaints on her page about how people are always mean to her. She and karma are the same thing.

  61. SJ*

    I was fired rather coldly and callously by my former company (I’d received no heads up whatsoever, had just had a good performance review, and was simply told in the meeting that “It’s in the best interest of the company that we move forward without you.” Sweet.). I was supposed to have a second date that night with a guy who I’d had a pretty fantastic first date with the weekend before. I texted him to tell him that today was probably not the best day and explained why. He cancelled our “fancy date,” and insisted on coming to help me clean out my desk because he said, “I didn’t deserve to go through that alone.”

    I landed in a much, much better job. And that guy? We’re getting married later this year.

    So sometimes firings work out well. My former employer can still suck it though.

    1. Sarah Nicole*

      Wow, that is a nice story! AND a really nice guy. Congrats to you on your new job and for finding such a nice person to share your life with. I agree, firings can be good. I was fired from a place where I was getting burnt out due to office politics that had nothing to do with me, but that negatively impacted my job, and I ended up moving on to a really good career change. That company is still toxic. I felt depressed at first, but it ended up being for the very best.

  62. ACurrentTeacher*

    I’ve seen bad firings and experienced 2 terrible firings, and experienced 1 semi-decent one.

    A few years ago, I used to work for the Ed. dept at a zoo. The job was pointless and didn’t really go anywhere. It was hard to find people to do the job though since it was the whole weekend, you didn’t get a lunch break, and it was crappy pay. Apparently one of my coworkers did a terrible job, but I think she was just a young kid who didn’t make this crappy job her whole life. They made her work this laborious job the whole day and then fired her. That was handled badly. And everyone saw her leave crying too, ugh.

    This same place let me go, by not giving me anymore shifts. I wasn’t told I was being let go after working there for almost two years. They did this a week or two before x-mas. I finally figured out I was fired/let go when I called them and emailed to ask why I didn’t get anymore shifts. And get this, not one of my two managers responded. I was polite and even made a joke in the message saying something silly about feeling
    “left out.” Finally I wrote an email asking if they could be a reference for me in the future because I inferred I was being fired/let go. Finally one manager wrote back yes, and wished me luck. At least they didn’t contest unemployment, but don’t make people infer that they’re unemployed.

    Last school I taught at, I basically wrangled it out of the principal that they weren’t planning to have me return around March time. He didn’t want to tell me, I think because of fear I’d stop working hard. I, of course, worked to the bone, to the very end of my contract plus two days extra! At least then I was able to apply to other schools, and he was a fair reference for me. My colleague, everyone apparently knew she was being fired, except for her. What’s up with that? Everyone apparently was talking about her etc. She was told literally the last week of school in June, so it was too late to apply to other schools.

    Firing someone is never enjoyable/great/pleasant, but people really should try to watch out for the fired person. They were a colleague/friend/team member at one point!

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Heh. Makes me think of one of the worst firings I’ve seen – years ago I worked at a computer repair place where they just stopped assigning any shifts to one of their techs (the only female tech, natch), then got indignant when she filed for unemployment and contested her claim, saying that she was “still employed.” (Yeah, just not working or being paid.)

  63. moodygirl86*

    I’ve spent the last year temping, so I know you can get let go without any warning. But what’s pissed me off on a couple of occasions is when the manager can easily make you aware – either directly or via the agency – that you’re not required back the next day as you are leaving in the afternoon; and yet they let you come in the next morning and work not-quite-an-hour into your shift before innocently exclaiming with wide eyes, “Oh we’ve ended your assignment, weren’t you told?” You KNOW I fucking wasn’t, you piss-taking powertripper! GRRR! They’d never tolerate having THEIR time wasted by a temp, yet it’s acceptable to deliberately waste ours?

    So yeah. Please don’t let somebody travel into work thinking they’ve got a job to go to if they haven’t. That’s just plain nasty.

    1. Hlyssande*

      I was told I was let go by my agency rep calling while I was driving home and leaving a message with my roommate. Rude.

      They also promised to send my stuff to me and never did. I had a box or two of granola bars and a big bottle of Jergens (the original scent) because the whole job was working with paper. Still annoyed.

  64. Bunny*

    I realise it will differ for different people, but I can say I think the worst time to fire someone would be in the morning on either a Monday or Tuesday.

    Because anyone who commutes is likely to, at minimum, pay for weekly bus or train tickets to save money over buying daily ones. If I’m fired at 10am on a Monday morning, I’ve just paid £50 for my weekly bus and train tickets that is now completely wasted, on top of suddenly finding out last minute that I’m not going to be earning any money that week as I had planned. No way management didn’t know the firing was happening the previous Friday – it’d feel like they were being intentionally unkind when they could have timed the firing for the end of the previous week.

    That said, if we’re talking a straight-up firing – no notice period, no redundancy, and it’s not the natural end of a temporary contract, then the person you’re firing should either have JUST done something so awful it warrants immediate dismissal, or they should already be aware that they’re getting close to that point – PIPs, training, one-on-ones, disciplinary processes and escalation procedures etc should have been going on.

    1. moodygirl86*

      I couldn’t agree more, Bunny. I’m in the UK and I assume you are too from your pound sign? Anyway, our workers’ rights are very poor. I know it’s perfectly legal, but I still think it’s complete bullshit that you can have your livelihood just taken away on the whim of a manager who decides your face doesn’t fit, or they woke up on the wrong side of their shag pad. Not only can you be punished when you’ve done nothing wrong, but there’s sweet fuck all you can do to prevent it from happening again. I’ve had some great bosses as well, so at least I know they’re not all like that. But it makes me angry that it’s no longer good enough to turn up on time, work hard and be pleasant to everybody; and yet some bosses think they can get away with talking to you like a piece of shit on their shoe which is another thing they’d never tolerate from staff.

  65. Jake*

    I’ve had one layoff that was just me (out of a group of 8). I was told at about 330pm by my manager in private, and he said he’d stay behind a few hours after everyone else had left to help me move out discreetly, and lock up behind me. so I sat in my cube and fired off sad emails until about 7 that evening.

    the other “layoff” was a meeting called on a Wednesday at 3pm stating that the whole company was folding. this was during the late 2008 credit freezes and we just plain couldn’t meet expenses. it was pretty awful, with everyone shambling around looking like death warmed over, but we knew we were ALL in the same camp. the worst was that they didn’t pay us our last paycheck (about 8 days of work out of a 10-day work interval!) and asked us to stay on for free to keep developing the product! yeah, no. last I heard I was something like 800th in line to have my claim as a creditor (wages, in my case) processed, behind a bunch of lawyers that took the last assets to help fight off said creditors. yeah, no.

  66. rdb0924*

    I’ve been fired or laid off a few times.

    4/18/2011: Fired after a miserable two years with a big-name bank, working for a pair of tyrants. Was fired at 11 am, and left to my own devices to clean out my desk and leave, in full view of coworkers who may or may not have been informed of my fate. Packed my stuff and beat feet, saying nothing to no one.

    11/14/2008: Beloved job I’d held nearly 11 years. Fired because new CFO didn’t like me. (The feeling was mutual.) Was called into CFO’s office in mid-afternoon, given my walking papers, told to get my coat and bag and take the walk of shame to the elevator with HR escort. No packing up of stuff; it would be done for me (and I would have to come pick it up, but would not be allowed past the building lobby). No one knew I’d been termed (along with the accounting manager, whom the CFO also disliked) until a meeting the following Monday morning, and I’m told tears were shed and oaths of “I’ll never forgive this SOB” were silently made (11/14/2008 was a Friday).

    2/26/1998, Laid off in mid-afternoon as part of a big housecleaning by the now-defunct employer. Was given plenty of time to clean out my desk – I had a lot of company on the unemployment line – while the coworkers still employed at that time ran around hugging and crying over those of us who’d been laid off. The entire office was closed within a year or so.

  67. so and so*

    I was fired by the worst, most abusive boss I’ve ever had and, shock and surprise, she was terrible at firing, too.

    She had been giving me conflicting feedback for months – I was awful and my job was on the line! I was valued and on the track to success! My clients loved me! My clients hated me! We were a temp service and, at one point, she asked me if I’d be interested in taking an assignment rather than working in the office. I said I would if it was the right fit for me (ie better than working for her). She called me to her office at the end of the day on a Tuesday and asked if I wanted to go on an assignment that would have been a major paycut and at a client known for treating their temps terribly. I assumed she had just run out of people willing to go there and said. Then she fired me. The paperwork said I had violated policy over a miscommunication from the previous week wherein another manager had not completed some necessary steps and I made an uninformed decision that mildly inconvenienced my boss. What she said verbally was that the job was a poor fit (true), that I was too much of a control freak to deal with industrial staffing (also true), and that she had given me clear feedback that this was coming (false).

    I packed up while the rest of the small office tried to pretend they didn’t notice, was told that boss would contact me about that assignment later if I was still interested, and then I left. When I asked boss about that assignment later, she informed me that she found something “disturbing” about the way I left the office (for the record, in tears and trying to hide it) and that I was no longer in consideration for that. Eventually the owner of Yeh company contacted me to do an informal exit interview and I didn’t hold back on how I’d been treated by that woman. He eventually decided that I wouldn’t get a formal exit interview since I felt do negatively about the company.

    My firing was handled better than a coworker’s that happened later, though. Same boss fired him while he was on vacation. She called him and told him to meet her at a gas station to get his stuff.


  68. Anonymous Nurse*

    I was at a job where I worked 12 hour night shift. made me work all night and then let me go in the morning after working there for 8 years. the HR person was horrified that they made me work all night long and then had to drive home after being uo all night plus the meeting time upset.

  69. Buttonhole*

    I was fired on a Wednesday just before 11am totally out of the blue with no PIP or warning. I was so shocked. Had to creep back to my desk, pack up (luckily I didn’t have a lot of things because we hot desk). I was so shocked that I packed my kitchen equipment (mug, knife for salad, all my salad ingredients, tea etc) into a plastic bag, but then forgot it all in the hallway on the way out.

  70. Lauren*

    I worked in a small 10-person design firm, and someone was fired mid-morning. She normally commuted about 40 miles each way by bicycle & bus, so she didn’t have any way to carry all her things home that day. The bosses left for the afternoon after firing her, and the fired worker hung around ALL DAY waiting for her boyfriend to help her pack up. We offered to send her things via courier, but she declined. Most awkward afternoon ever.

  71. Alise Shen*

    I was just fired today morning. My first job out of college lasted 1 month.
    My boss just said that im not naturally detail-oriented so I’m unteachable and she told her boss that she’s pregnant and don’t want me to stress her baby.
    Company is australian branch, in Singapore.

  72. Paul*

    Personalize it. Not a difficult concept. When a person has the job and you are pumping them full of how great they are going to do while they fill out their in-processing paperwork ensure there is a block on the in-processing paperwork that asks….
    In the unlikely event you must be dismissed from your position, what time and day would you prefer notification to take place?
    Further inform the employee that while they are being asked for a preference, it doesn’t mean that it will actually go down on that date and time if necessary.
    Ensure the employee also knows that they can change this preference at any time.

  73. Better off than I was*

    Once I was hired for a newly created position. It was supposed to start two months down the road. In the meantime, they asked me to fill in for “Jane” who was two weeks away from going on maternity leave. I was fine with that, as I was underemployed and I needed the money. The manager over the department that I filled in for “Mel” and I got along famously. I was able to streamline the work, which increased productivity and saved the company money. Mel was so comfortable with my work, that he took the Wed through Friday off of the final week that I filled in for Jane. The Friday before Jane was to return, I was let go stating that I just wasn’t a good fit. Huh? I mentioned that I had not even started working in the position that I was initially hire for. They just kept repeating that I was not a good fit. I was scheduled to come in the following Wednesday for an exit interview with HR.
    Monday morning, I get a call from Mel asking me why I had not shown up for work. He had no idea I had been fired. Jane got the job I was hired for initially, and a few months later Mel was fired. It really left a bad taste in my mouth.
    The thing is, if they had just told me that they had changed their mind about the new position, or that they wanted Jane to do the new job and let me continue with her old one, I would have been perfectly OK with that. It all ended well, as believe it or not, HR stepped up to the plate for me, and I was (very reluctantly) given two weeks pay as a parting gift. It was really for the best, as it was a truly dysfunctional environment.

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