is it okay to fire someone close to Christmas?

A reader writes:

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

Given that we are so close to Christmas, I am curious as to how other managers and organizations have handled such a situation? Do you terminate immediately, wait until after the holidays, or wait until the new year?

In addition to doing what is right by this person, we obviously don’t want to have any adverse affect on morale by terminating someone on Christmas Eve.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 207 comments… read them below }

            1. Anon13*

              I looked at it yesterday, so I may not be 100% clear, but, to the best of my recollection, it was a really depressed looking middle-aged man in a suit at a desk with a party hat, a noisemaker, and streamers.

  1. Jessesgirl72*

    If it’s waited this long, and this many times, it can wait 3 more weeks.

    We had a landlord who decided to turn all the apartments into condos, and hand delivered the eviction notices on Christmas Eve. Even though they weren’t 30/60 day notices- just notices that it was going to happen sometime in the spring (and hadn’t, when we moved out in April) It definitely impacted people’s cooperation with the things he wanted to do to prepare the properties for renovation and sale.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Me too! 2 days before Christmas my landlords who lived upstairs came down to tell my husband and I that they were going to sell our apartment and that it would be great for us to buy it. There was absolutely no way we were going to do that (for many reasons) but apparently they thought we would jump at the chance. We found a new place on Dec. 27th and gave notice for the end of January. We had a month to month lease and gave more than 20 days notice as required, but the landlords were livid that we were 1) moving out on our schedule, not theirs and 2) would not be paying rent for January, since we paid last month’s rent when we moved in. They actual asked how they were to pay their bills without the rent money. I believe my response was “not my problem.”

      Really ruined the holidays that year.

          1. Damn it Hardison!*

            Ha ha! My husband and I try to work that in to everyday conversations. Like, “it’s a very distinctive cereal.”

      1. designbot*

        It’s a good thing they were selling, as they sound poorly suited to being landlords. Just like when you’re the boss, you do what you have the right to do but you have to know that people won’t necessarily react the way you want them to.

        1. nonymous*

          Whenever I hear stories like that it makes me wonder what plan the LL has in place even if the tenant moves out at the LL request. I mean at some point every tenant will need to use their last month’s credit right?

  2. Michelle*

    I agree with Alison- if you can wait until the holidays are over, as long as it’s not going to harm your business, that would be kinder. Christmas is more stressful than usual with all the demands on your time and the cost of presents. I think it would be hard if family/friends asked about how things are going and your news is “I got fired”.

    That being said, please don’t let the holidays stop you from making the right decision for your business. If Fergus needs to go before Christmas, he needs to go.

    1. Kyrielle*

      This. And if he _does_ need to go now, if you possibly can, be generous with the severance. It’s a lousy time to let someone go, but if it has to happen, it does – and the blow can be cushioned a little.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      I agree that if you can wait until January, that is fine, but I also note that there is always an excuse to wait. There is no ideal time to axe someone that won’t hurt, or be painful, or be inconvenient. Pick a date in January and go, instead of thinking that if you just pause for a moment, the actual perfect firing date will present itself. It does not exist.

  3. sunny-dee*

    My friend had a lady in her office who had claimed to have some experience that she didn’t have. So, instead of doing accounting work, she was basically a very overpaid admin. The boss gave her a reeeeeeeally long time to try to develop those skills, and it just didn’t happen, and then the boss had finally decided to let her go after the holidays. And then the lady’s house burned down on New Year’s and the boss felt too guilty to fire her and she kept her for, like, another year and a half. (And subsequently fired her in something of a tantrum and gave her only a week’s severance or something.)

    1. alter_ego*

      That’s like when I knew I wanted to break up with my boyfriend, but we had a trip to mexico booked together that was all paid for, so I couldn’t break up with him before that vacation and lose all my money, and I couldn’t break up with him right after we got back, or else it would have been obvious that I was just waiting for the vacation to happen to break up with him, and then it was Thanksgiving, then it was Christmas, then Valentines day. There was like a week window in October where it was acceptable for me to break up with him, which luckily I took. If there had been any kind of personal issue that occurred during that week, we’d probably be married now.

      1. bridget*

        Ugh, that’s the worst. The both of you probably in retrospect wish you had that extra year of your lives back, instead of treading water in a relationship that wasn’t going to work out. The same goes for jobs – pull off the bandaid so people can move on to better fits!

      2. Artemesia*

        THIS. My fear is that having waffled on this for so long that if he is not fired as a result of this screw up, once again it will be allowed to slide. He knows he screwed up; time to let the shoe drop. Giving a decent severance would be kind but letting him hang around 3 more weeks just ups the chance that something else will delay this long overdue move.

        And LOL many women end up married because it was never the right time to say let’s break up. Part of is that women are so often told they need a ‘reason’ to break up which of course they don’t beyond ‘this is what I want to do.’

        1. sstabeler*

          yes and no. That is, the reason for the breakup really should be “this relationship isn’t working out anymore”- if the breakup is in the heat of the moment…

          1. nonymous*

            I think there’s a difference between “it’s not wise” and “it’s possible”. So while it is certainly possible to break up with someone b/c they want to in the moment, that might not be a wise choice. And while it may be wise to stay in a relationship, there are no rules in life saying that people must act wisely at all times.

      3. shep*

        UGH, I feel your pain! This is similar to the reason I stayed with an ex far longer than I should have. He’d just lost his job (although he was still in a remarkably robust financial situation because he was a spoiled adult man with wealthy parents), it was right before Thanksgiving, which segued very swiftly into his birthday and then into Christmas.

        What finally did it (along with other niggling factors) was that he was happier than he’d ever been before and was talking about getting married. I was miserable, and once that talk started, I wriggled out real fast. Not as neatly as I would’ve liked to, but it was an excellent prod to do what I’d really needed to do months and months before that.

        Of course, I had to deal with weeks of sporadic frantic texts/middle-of-the-night phone calls I refused to answer, months of pining emails from him, and weird attempts to get back into contact after said clingy behavior had completely turned me off wanting to continue any sort of friendship with him. But man, was it worth it to get out of there.

        I don’t always think relationships and work have such tidy parallels, but as bridget says below, absolutely: pulling off the band-aid quickly is far better.

        1. Luciferrous Sulphide*

          I actually bit the bullet and broke up with my first girlfriend when I realised I wasn’t happy after nearly 3 years while she was still in her little bubble where unicorns shat rainbows. Could have had better timing in retrospect; I broke up on February 13…

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            Ouch. One of my exes broke up with me on his birthday, after I’d bought him a really lovely present, and after we’d decided to move in together. Interestingly enough, the move was to another country, and I’d already quit my job and sold my car, etc. etc. (I still went, and had a fabulous time, and we’re still very close friends….but yeah, that was a *hard* breakup.)

            1. zora*

              One guy broke up with me on MY birthday. It was definitely for the best, and I’m with someone much more awesome for me now, but I’m still kind of pissed at him for the timing.

              1. Your Weird Uncle*

                Oh yes, that sort of thing really lingers! I was pretty bitter (okay, still am…) when the same ex, after his birthday breakup, celebrated *my* birthday with a card that had a pickle on it, and took me to someone else’s birthday party. :P Like, I didn’t expect him to put boyfriend-level thought into a gift for me, but anything other than a pickle card would have been much, much better!

          2. bohtie*

            if it makes you feel any better, I kinda accidentally broke up with my last girlfriend the day after she busted her ass helping me move into a new apartment. After she left we got into an argument and all the shit I’d been damming up for the sake of “I’ll deal with this later” just busted right out and I couldn’t hold it together for a single minute longer.

            (She’s genuinely much better off without me anyway, so I try to go easy on myself about it months down the line.)

      4. copy run start*

        I felt horribly guilty breaking up with this guy a week before Valentine’s Day. He was planning a re-enactment of our first date and everything. :( I just had to end it. I also felt bad because he’d spent a lot of money purchasing me an HDTV for Christmas.

        But then he went and became an utter a$$ and deliberately took his new dates to the coffee shop where my roommate worked to disrespect him and flaunt all the new women on his arm two days later.

        So that patched all my guilt right up. And I have enjoyed the crap out of that TV for 5 years!

        1. Alter_ego*

          Yeah, my ex then went on to lie and tell me he had terminal cancer to get me to keep having sex with him after our break up. So I have no guilt about how any of it went down.

  4. AndersonDarling*

    I feel like there is never a good time to give bad news. If it’s not Christmas, then it will be New Years, and then it will be time for Fregus’s week long vacation that he has been saving a year for, and then it will be Valentine’s Day where he is planning on proposing…

    1. MashaKasha*

      Ahh that is exactly the logic my last ex used when he came to my house to break up at eight PM on New Years Eve, which, as he’d known damn well, was my favorite holiday.

      I don’t agree with this. There are bad times for bad news and then there are terrible time for bad news, and a major holiday is definitely in the latter category. There are several hundred days in the year that are not major holidays. I think it’s better to use those. Aside from the employee being let go, what kind of message will it send to everybody else at the company if Fergus gets his pink slip on December 24th? My reaction would probably be “wow, my employer will stop at nothing to improve the bottom line by a couple of bucks. Why don’t I hurry up and get out before they’ve thrown me under a bus too.”

      1. Aurion*

        My personal line for bad news and breakups would be to delay if the other person has an extremely important, one time event on the near horizon, and the event actually has lasting impact on the future, whether that be career consequences, financial consequences, etc. For example, a bar exam or a court date would qualify.

        I really don’t know that a holiday, no matter how major, qualifies. Sure, firing before a holiday sucks. But firing after a holiday, after the person bought gifts and spent money under the assumption they have a steady income? That also sucks. Firings suck. Breakups suck. But I don’t think timing it around the holidays is wise. There’s always an argument for the other side.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Well, for one thing, your holiday plans are suddenly shot to hell. I have a supportive family and was able to turn around and quickly make plans with them. I cannot imagine how it would’ve felt spending a holiday alone in an empty house in a just-dumped state.

          Ironically, I didn’t take the news all that badly, because I’d been kind of thinking of having the talk myself; except not on a major holiday. I also waited for the entire holiday season to be over to tell my then husband I was moving out, back when I was married. Did he take it well? Hell no. But he’d already had a nice holiday season full of parties with friends, that he enjoyed.

          Also, at this point, the person being fired has already bought gifts anyway. Would’ve been better to have let him go a month ago, but now that the ship has sailed, I think it’d be pretty callous to make the firing a Christmas Eve thing.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s true, but I have a friend who knew he wanted to break up with his gf and waited 2 weeks (to ride out family holidays with her) before doing it. He was such a jerk throughout the two week waiting process, to the point where she would have preferred if he’d broken up with her earlier. Conversely, another friend wanted to break up with her bf a week before his first semester law school exams. Because they were dating long-distance, she was universally advised to let him get through finals, first, and I’m glad she did (she was glad, too, b/c her ex-bf took the breakup terribly and went through a scary depression. It’s not her fault that he did, but it would have been way worse if it had happened during finals).

            So I think there are good/bad times to fire someone, or to dump someone (not quite the same thing as the job context), but it also depends on whether the “dumper” has the decency to behave like a good person during the “holdover” period.

            1. Artemesia*

              Just before finals is actually I think a good reason to delay; just before Christmas not so much. It is always something.

              1. Gaara*

                And there’s an upside to getting broken up with just before Christmas, which is that you hopefully have time off work to be around family and use that to recover. Right before finals or the bar exam or whatever is a totally different animal, in my book, and the only time when it’s good to wait — because those kinds of things can have long-term consequences well beyond having a day or period of days ruined.

                1. Mela*

                  I think it’s very dependent on the person’s relationship with their family. If they’re the type that would be woeful that you’re single and make condescending remarks, kinder to wait. But if they’re loving and supportive, yea, go right ahead.

                2. Julia*

                  Yes. Plus, who wants to go through the holidays pretending to be all in love (and possibly getting asked about an engagement or similar) and then tell the other person you were faking it?

            2. MashaKasha*

              It is a life change like any other. If the two people had been together for any length of time, one or both will be depressed for a while after it ends. Yeah it would not have gone over well if it happened during finals. He would have likely failed the exams.

              Well I really hope I handled my waiting period better than your friend’s ex. I was bummed, of course, because I knew I was about to end an almost-20-year marriage. But tried my best to keep it to myself, put a smile on, and help my still-husband, as well as the kids, enjoy the holidays (which, in our culture, dragged on all the way through mid-January). Signed a lease on the apartment the morning of the last holiday party, cleaned the house top to bottom the next day, and told him as soon as I was done.

              Lastly, yes I agree that this isn’t the same as the job context. I was responding to “there will always be some kind of a holiday” which was what my ex said, verbatim, and it just isn’t accurate. (TBH, I think he had straight up forgotten that it was NYE, and said it to save face after I pointed that out.) Major holidays are pretty few and far between. It is not difficult to schedule either event in between them.

          2. Aurion*

            I meant that we shouldn’t plot around holidays in general, though of course personal definitions of what constitutes “before” a holiday varies. Christmas Eve is pretty shit timing. First or second week of December? I think that beats early January in my books just by the financial concern alone. (I’m not certain when in December Alison first received this question.)

            As for holiday celebrations…well, I’m not a holiday person so I can’t speak to that. Holidays alone isn’t a problem for me, though I guess the sting of a fresh breakup could make it worse.

            1. sunny-dee*

              My husband has to close a couple of smaller locations, and he let them know at the first of November that they’d be closing Dec 22. His explanation to the COO was that he wanted them to earn as much as they could leading up to Christmas but also to be aware that they would not have a job, so they could start looking ASAP (since hiring is slower around this time of year) and also budget wisely through the holidays.

              1. MashaKasha*

                I think he handled it very well! I would’ve liked to be told that in that manner, for those reasons.

            2. MashaKasha*

              There aren’t many holidays that I feel strongly about. NYE is pretty much the only big one I celebrated as a child growing up. Never really got into Christmas… don’t like Valentine’s Day. Most of my birthdays are probably fair game (except for the big ones). For my SOs, there are a lot of days to choose from that are holidays to everybody else, but non-holidays to me, and they know it. He somehow managed to choose one of the very few ones that mattered.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              I saw an article online that said the day most people broke up was December 13. The article said it was probably the thought of doing all the holiday stuff that freaked people out, and so they ended it in plenty of time so both parties could make other plans.

              I don’t know what the most common day to fire someone would be. I know Thursday is a good day of the week to do it–you still have Friday to do things like file for unemployment, or anything else that has to get done on a weekday. Then you have the weekend to be upset.

              It’s nice to wait until the end of the day, however. Walking someone out is humiliating.

              1. Why Don't We Do It in the Code*

                “We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.” – Bob Slydell

          3. CMT*

            I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution here. I would be livid if I got dumped right after the holidays because my partner knew but didn’t want to mess up plans. Getting fired would make me less upset, because money, obviously. And because it’s not quite as emotionally fraught.

            1. Oryx*

              My ex dumped me three days after our anniversary because we already had plans he didn’t want to cancel. Livid sums it up.

              1. MashaKasha*

                I guess you guys are right. My other ex dumped me three days after our romantic vacation, that he’d already made hotel reservations for, and that I had borrowed PTO from THE FOLLOWING YEAR (I’d just started a new job and we did not get any PTO for the first six months) to go on. He then proceeded to go on his fall break, Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break and so forth, that he was entitled to as a college prof, while my big vacation over the next year and a half (in addition to taking my son on college visits and college orientation) was taking three days off to visit Boston the following summer. I would’ve been happy if he’d ended it earlier and let me back out of the vacation. But I guess he needed me to pay my half of the hotel charges *eye roll*

                With my New Year story, I guess it was the combination of it being smack dab in the middle of New Year’s eve (eight PM) and the fact that I’d asked him to come help me celebrate the New Years, since the group of friends I’d done it with for fifteen years before that, finally decided to cut me out of the guest list (my ex-husband and I were both in that group and there were a lot of hurt feelings around the group when I left him). He said “of course I will”, came to my house at 7:30PM Dec 31, broke up, and left at 8:00. I celebrated with my immediate family and went on a meetup hike first thing next morning, so it’s not like my heart was broken beyond repair. But his choice of timing did feel like a slap in the face. Like, I would seriously have been okay with it if he’d ended it when I asked him to come help me ring in the New Year the week before. (“Ah sorry, would’ve totally made it, but we’re no longer a couple.”)

        2. paul*

          That sounds like a good, sound, guideline to me. Avoid wrecking their near future by screwing up a major one off, but don’t drag yourself through a nasty month just toa void breaking up during the holidays.

      2. phedre*

        Yup! It’s like when my ex broke up with me on Christmas in the car on the way home from the airport. I told him it was terrible timing, and he was all “Would there ever have been a good time?” It would never have been great news (although in hindsight it was AMAZING NEWS and I’m well-rid of him), but timing was almost deliberately unkind. What a jerk!

      3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I had an ex- BF break up with me on NYE on the 3-hour drive to our friend’s house in another city after I had flown back early from visiting my parents three states away.

        His entire reason for the initial delay was that he didn’t want to “ruin” the holiday for me, but amazingly enough, I could tell something was off from the moment he picked me up. To this day, I truly wish he had something earlier so that I could have simply stayed with my parents longer.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            Stupidly, I decided to have him turn around, so we continued to argue on the way back…until a storm hit and we drove back in near blizzard conditions.

            We ended up staying at another friend’s mother house as they lived on the outskirts of the city. It was utterly miserable, but somehow 20 year old me thought dragging it out would lead to a changed result.

            Nowadays I would have had him drop me off at the friend’s house and let him slink back home.

        1. Natalie*

          Who breaks up with someone they are stuck in a car with for any length of time? That guy was an idiot.

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          I broke up with a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, but IMO, he deliberately goaded me into it. He’d never admit that, but why else would he suddenly, on Valentine’s Day, start acting like such an ass? Which he did. Such an ass.

          But hey, it worked out. Sort of on the rebound, I reconnected with a guy I’d broken up with, and…we (me and sort-of-rebound guy) have now been married for 29 years.

            1. TeaLady*

              I’m marrying my rebound. I’m claiming a full house – he’s a toyboy and “the one that got away” as well …

        3. Overeducated*

          I was thinking this sounded weirdly familiar and that I might have heard the story before…and then I remembered that something very similar happened to me in college! For the life of me I can’t remember if it ended on the way to or from the New Year’s party, though – I am thinking on the way back because I vaguely remember feeling weird when it hit 12:00 and he wasn’t nearby.

          It was not an entirely suprising breakup though, so less upsetting and memorable than yours!

      4. Mm*

        My boyfriend broke up with me on my birthday when we were having a romantic dinner at a restaurant. I got stuck with the check.

        1. zora*

          Wow, yours is worse! I got broken up with on my birthday, but it was at my house, he handled it horribly, but he didn’t stick me with a check, jeez!! Now I feel less annoyed about mine. ;o)

    2. Liz2*

      I see that point, but think of all the family, friend and holiday events that person has to go to, plus all the paperwork, healthcare adjustments and employment benefits processing that will be done when everyone else is on vacation and all offices are at minimal staff with low motivation and short deadlines.

      No, there’s no perfect time, but as someone who got let go the day before NYE, there are better times than others.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Wow, good point. And on the 31st, when the month runs out and your insurance ends! I cannot begin to imagine.

        1. LizB*

          That’s another good point – if your health insurance is the type that keeps you covered through the end of the month you leave the company, it would be very kind to let him go at the beginning of a month versus the end of the month.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      This is a logical fallacy known as black and white thinking. Its assuming there are only two choices when there are many.
      There’s never a good time to deliver bad news. But there are definitely bad times and really bad times to deliver it. It’s on a continuum. It isn’t one or the other.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Agreed. My idea was that it is a slippery slope. Once you start delaying bad news, it gets easier to keep pushing it off.

    4. Sarianna*

      Yeah, but ten minutes into the new year, when we’d gotten home from a party, really set the tone for the year. That being, “It can’t get worse, can it now.”

      (And no, it wasn’t 2016!)

  5. Anon 2*

    My employer used to have a bad habit of firing people the Friday afternoon before major holidays, Xmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Everyone would feel horrible, but relieved it eventually happened.

    This past year they fired someone the Monday morning after Xmas. I’m not sure which was worse firing someone the Friday before Xmas or in the first 30 minutes in the office after Xmas. Either way it stinks, and in all cases the people should have been fired months before.

    1. michelenyc*

      The last company I was with let me go after the New Year holiday last year. So Monday morning I wasted my time going into the office only to be told I was being let go and that the President of my company forgot to do it on NYE. I was so happy. I already had another position lined up and because the environment was so toxic it is the 1 job in my 20+ year career that the Friday before my new job I was going to tell them I wouldn’t be back on Monday.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Why was your employer such a scrooge!?? Who fires people exclusively on the eve of a major holiday? Was it so they didn’t have to face the fired employee b/c of a built in “cool down” period?

      1. Pipes32*

        My husband got laid off on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. Like, 7p they called him on his cell phone and informed him. WTF is that?!

        Really put a damper on that evening. Of all the ways to do a layoff, I highly suggest NOT that.

  6. sssssssssssssss*

    Yes, a manager at an engineering firm I was at a couple of years ago, let go someone on a Friday in early or mid-December, the same day as the Xmas party.

    He wouldn’t leave the office he was in to ask questions or ask for more work. He was afraid of the junior engineer and complained she was too rough with him. Frankly, if anyone tells you to open Windows Explorer to find a program online and you are fumbling with the mouse unable to find Explorer, yes, she will get frustrated with you. And, his work wasn’t good. He lasted four weeks and the manager could not justify keeping him on longer.

    It was sad but really not expected.

  7. BRR*

    I was fired on Jan 3rd. On one hand, I appreciate my employer exercising compassion but there is another factor that I purchased gifts on the reasonable assumption that I would have a steady income (I had received literally no suggestion that my job was in jeopardy or that my performance was anything less than excellent). I think the way around this is you fire people the right way where it’s not a surprise.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Yes, that’s what I was thinking, too. Christmas is a HUGE expense for many people and it would be awful to go all out on gifts and travel only to get fired right after. The mental impact of being fired right before would maybe be worse, but in terms of financial impact it would be worse to fire right after.

    2. Barney Barnaby*

      “I was fired on Jan 3rd. On one hand, I appreciate my employer exercising compassion but there is another factor that I purchased gifts on the reasonable assumption that I would have a steady income (I had received literally no suggestion that my job was in jeopardy or that my performance was anything less than excellent).”

      Yes, that is one large problem with terminating people after Christmas. I mean, I think it’s still better than before Christmas, but is there a way to give someone a heads-up that this might be coming, so they can at least plan their purchases?

    3. Anxa*

      I was also fired on Jan 3!

      Well, laid off. And it was the last day they were open until they shut down for 3 weeks. But I was told at the end of my shift as I was cashing out. It was weird.

      I’m glad, though, that they waited. I got to work New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve before I was let go, and made a good amount of money during those shifts.

    4. TheTallestOneEver*

      Agree. I’ve been laid off before Christmas. I’ve been laid off after Christmas. Neither situation was ideal, but I preferred getting the bad news ahead of the holidays, before gifts were purchased.

    5. blackcat*

      Yeah, for this reason, I think it’s most compassionate to basically tell the employee that you’d like their last day to be X, but you understand if they’d like to leave today. That gives them the heads up that they shouldn’t be spending anymore on holiday stuff.

    6. Ros*


      My husband was told in late November that his job is being eliminated in mid-January (right around when I’ll be 8 months pregnant! So that’s fun!). To be clear: there’s serious cut-backs due to industry not bringing in as much money, it’s in now way his fault, and they can’t actually keep him on if there’s no work, so… No blame to the employer, y’know? (And if you wanna lay off the husband of a heavily pregnant woman with no hard feelings, here’s how you do it, guys).

      To their credit: they gave him 2 months warning, basically as soon as they made the call, have been accomodating with time off to interview, have given him job leads and recommendations and promised excellent references, have offered him contract work afterwards, AND let him know early enough that we were able to manage holiday expenses and savings with some element of foresight. If they’d told him in early January, we’d both have been PISSED.

      1. LozzieM*

        Yes this!The same thing happened to me. I work for a not for profit and the shortfall for next year is pushing $1 million so unfortunately junior staff have to go. They told me the last week of November and my last day was meant to be the 16th of December with 6 weeks severance, but it’s been pushed back a week now becuase there is still so much to do ( I resisted the urge to say I know, thus why my position exisited). But finding out before the holidays was much better then being told on the day day of the office closure, December 23rd, that I wouldn’t be coming back in the new year. While it sucks to be looking for a new job now, because I’m not likely to get an interview before the middle of January, it works out well for my family. My mum was diagnosed with Leukemia in August and the second round of chemo almost killed her. I had a weeks compasionate leave when she was admitted to icu in a medically induced coma and suffered a stroke and they told us she was going to die. Fast forward two months and she is going great guns and it looks like she will be dischagered from the stroke unit on Christmas Eve. By not having to return to work on January 3rd I’m now able to help her transition home and take her to any therapy appointments. Plus the initial panic of not having a stable income in the new year has passed so by the time I get some interviews I’m more likely to be less desperate for any job and instead end up taking a job that suits me and has actual career progression unlike my current one. So personally, I’d rather know before Christmas

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          I am in the middle of something similar with my father and grade 4 brain cancer.
          Big squeezy hugs to you and your mum, if you want them.

          1. LozzieM*

            Thank you so much and right back at you. It’s funny we where, naturally, devastated and freaking out. But after hearing the matter of fact tone the doctors took in explaining the treatment and the small chance of these major complications we naturally assumed ok this is doable and people survive cancer all the time – mum will as well. Fast forward almost 6 months later and I honestly want nothing more then to have my mother give ‘that’ look for buying another dress that is similar to ten others I have. And I know that she wants nothing more then to have to stop asking me to pick up things for her that she would normally sort as part of her daily life. Hopefully your father is receiving amazing care like mum is and that you are taking time for yourself as well.

      2. focusfriday*

        This happened to me, and I think it was as ideal as could be (if we assume the layoff was inevitable). They told us in late November, when I for one still had time to reduce my holiday spending, but my last day wasn’t till February. But I think that kind of notice only really works for layoffs–you can’t fire someone for cause and then have them keep working for months. In this case, I can only hope the soon-to-be-fired employee has a sense that the firing is a high probability and has planned accordingly. I would wait till after Christmas in this case to avoid the morale hit among the remaining employees.

    7. Sparrow*

      So much this. Maybe they let him work through the new year, but he should be told before the holiday.

      1. CMT*

        But then don’t you run the risk of having a disgruntled employ around who might make things even worse than they already were? Either deliberately or not. Maybe they could fire him now with severance to cover the next few weeks of paychecks.

    8. Anon Accountant*

      The best way to fire someone is with compassion and after warning. Then the final warnings of being clear “your job is in jeopardy” unless this is done within this time frame.

  8. Ann O'Nemity*

    This topic came up at work recently. Someone shared their opinion that it’s more compassionate to let someone know before Christmas and all it’s expenses. I can see that point too.

    1. Bang on the Drum All Day*

      I think this could be true in the first days of the month but I think it’s too late now.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, it all depends on whether they’re someone who does their big gift-buying rush the week or two beforehand or has already done most of it, and if they’re budgeting for car gas or for plane tickest bought months in advance.

        1. copy run start*

          Well, if they haven’t had to mail gifts there’s still the chance of returning things if the situation is that dire. Not much you can do about plane tickets or hotel reservations though, unless a mega snowstorm cancels your flight (I lucked into this one year).

    2. MashaKasha*

      I think it is a very good point! But now, it being mid-December, that window of opportunity has pretty much already closed.

    3. Hannah*

      That is another reasonable perspective. It just shows that there is never a good time to get bad news.

      I think if you’ve given someone warning/chances so that it’s not out of the blue, and you’re giving them severance, it’s fair to let them go even before or right after the holidays. It’s unfortunate timing but the business can’t be expected to put everything on hold until it’s a convenient time to fire someone. That time will never come.

    4. Blue Anne*

      That’s my big concern. If I know I’m losing my job, I’m definitely cutting back at Christmas. If I don’t know, I can’t do anything about it.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, this is absolutely a consideration and it’s one more reason why it’s crucial to give people feedback and clear warnings so that they can see the possible writing on the wall and make good decisions for themselves.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Yes, when I started working for Very Large Companies, I was incredibly relieved to find out that a firing has to always be preceded by a PIP and a probation period, reviews, etc. I’d heard too many horror stories like “went out to lunch, came back, my badge wasn’t working, come to find out I’d been let go” and it definitely minimizes the damage when the person is given time to prepare. I was on a six-month probation once, and yes, I cut expenses and started saving during that time, in case I would be let go at the end of it (I wasn’t). Being informed really helped.

        1. Evan Þ.*

          That reminds me of the time, in the middle of layoffs, when my intranet access suddenly stopped working.

          It turned out it was a coincidence – due to some unrelated management changes a month or so earlier, one of my permissions had expired and not been automatically renewed. But it definitely made for a tense few hours.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I had a colleague whose contract wasn’t renewed, which is tantamount to being fired in my field. Although my boss gave her a 2 month heads’ up, jobs tend to be more abundant at one point in the year and that point had just ended when he informed her about her contract. While she definitely deserved being let go and it really shouldn’t have been a surprise, it would’ve been kinder for him to factor in the cycle for job searches. She had been awful in many ways the entire time and had only been there a year by the time she left so it wasn’t like she was a good employee who fell off track.

      3. paul*

        Sometimes it’s not even that person; I’ve seen layoffs due to industry downturns hit family members in mid December. It’s brutal. Nothing they really did either; when your employer cuts 60-70% of the people in your position…

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      So I tend to favor a hybrid approach, depending on the relationship between the employer and employee. For layoffs, for example, give folks a head’s up before the holiday so that they can plan, but let them finish out work for the remainder of the year. For people who needed to be fired a month ago (which sounds like the case for OP), it’s more compassionate to wait until after the holidays, if you can, but if keeping someone on is toxic or imposes a significant financial burden, then it’s better to fire them as quickly as is reasonably possible.

      I was on a board that had to deliver layoff notices on November 13 with an effective date of December 31 (with the option that the employee could leave earlier, if they preferred). We provided severance to everyone. The employees being laid off were super upset and angry, and the timing didn’t matter except that it seemed to rub salt in their wounds. The board was traumatized by the experience because we all felt like such terrible and heartless human being (granted, the terminated employees’ trauma, and their coworkers’, was much worse than ours). It was devastating for morale and destroyed some previously deep/strong professional and personal relationships. It also made us all very unwilling to do lay offs that way, again, despite the Exec Director’s preference for always delivering layoffs at the end of the calendar year.

      Firing is a little different, but not by much. If there’s a way to balance humanity against business needs, it’s worth it.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      But some people start shopping really really early (not me and I’m not a big xmas spender anyhow) so that means what, you’d need to do it before september?

      1. Candi*

        At least before Thanksgiving (US).

        I have a friend who always does her Christmas shopping via Black Friday and CyberMonday deals. (Generally online as well, with gifts going straight to gifted.) In a nation of millions, there’s likely a few others who do variations of the same. Any December date would be too late.

  9. Annalee*

    The holidays being a high-spending time, though, it’s potentially kind to give the person some notice so that they can better manage their budget.

    Someone who’s been nearly fired multiple times has had plenty of warning that they should be building up their savings and taking other precautions like not racking up debt. But job searches can take a very long time, depending on the industry (and especially when you’ve been fired for cause and can’t supply a good reference). So even someone who has a solid safety net might still rather factor their impending loss of income into their holiday spending decisions.

    This may be another argument in favor of Performance Improvement Plans. This guy already has to know he’s on thin ice with previous almost-firings, but a PIP would have given him a specific timeline–which the employer could have then set to not coincide with the holidays.

    1. Anon 2*

      I think by the time mid to late December comes the damage to the budget is already done.

      But, I know the last time we fired someone she was completely shocked. Even though she had multiple warnings and the writing was clearly on the wall. Some people just don’t seem to adsorb the fact that their job is in danger, so I’m not sure it matter that much when you fire them.

      1. Lisa*

        Not necessarily. Before xmas they can still return/rethink gifts. Once they’re given they’re out of luck.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s true that someone people won’t absorb it. (I’ve literally said the words “when we review your progress in two weeks, if you haven’t made these improvements, I will need to let you go,” and then had the person appear blindsided when that happened.) But enough people will hear you that it’s still worth doing.

      3. Anxa*

        I don’t think that’s true. Travel may have been booked, but how many people have their gifts purchased this far in advance (if we’re talking about Christmas)? And a lot of travel may still be reimbursable at this time.

        1. Emma*

          Um, me, and most of my relatives and friends. We tend to fall on the early preparation side of things, especially because a lot of our gifts need to be mailed and we’ve had issues getting things there on time if we wait until just a week or two before the holiday in question. (Things have to have time to get to me, then get to others. If I assume it’ll take me up to 2 weeks to get a package from a given vendor, and I want to make sure it arrives at my friends by Christmas, I need to order by the very beginning of December at the latest.) Also, a lot of us are crafters or bakers and need time to make our gifts.

          1. Emma*

            I guess I’d rather err on the side of assuming that people shop – or at least plan – early than assume they shop later, if we’re talking making a decision that might have a big impact on said shopping.

            Also, I forgot the apostrophe in “friend’s” and I have now appeased my inner editor by pointing that out.

          2. Anxa*

            Yeah, but it’s not like everyone shops this early. A lot of people shop within the week of the holiday they are gifting. I know most of my purchases are made after Dec. 20 for Christmas (I mostly shop in-store and craft).

            I think that if you’re considering the expenses of the holiday (ones that are mostly voluntary and not thinks like rent or utilities or internet) that there’s plenty of time for people to save money unless they are early shoppers.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          I am completely done with my shopping. Christmas is only 10 days away. The last day to order/ship things before Christmas is tomorrow. I also don’t know anyone who buys reimbursable airfare for Christmas- even on SW, it’s only a credit.

          1. Anxa*

            Trains and buses have more options for reimbursement than airfare, in my experience. Although it’s not what it was a few years ago.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, I was going to say the same. Beginning with Thanksgiving, most folks I know have purchased the majority of their gifts. By this time of year, they’ve already put out the outlay (and often also can’t get their travel reimbursed because they bought discounted/sale fares). I know this varies widely by person, but I think it’s safe to assume that by early to mid-December, at least 50% of the people who celebrate gift-giving winter holidays have made their purchases.

      4. Artemesia*

        But in the OP’s situation the guy has been screwing up for years and never getting fired; no reason to think he wouldn’t expect the same wussy treatment now.

  10. Formica Dinette*

    I once had a boss who forced me to fire someone the day before Christmas, but that boss was an exceptionally terrible person.

  11. Rae*

    I had a performance eval on Christmas Eve a few years back. I didn’t realize that I was on a 90 day trial, something which had never been mentioned at any point during hiring or after I started working. They told me it probably wasn’t going to work out and unless there was a drastic turn around before the new year I would be let go. I had no clue they were disappointed with me.

    I should say I was the 6th person to last less than 3 months in that position, so I really don’t think it was me.

  12. Nichole*

    Both my parents were laid off days before Christmas. Thing is, in my family we celebrate Yule and they were given the bad news Yule morning as we were opening gifts. It was so heartbreaking to see my mother cry like that. About a month later my Stepdad suffered a stroke. Probably due to the stress of losing all their income. Essentially what I am saying is don’t fire someone right before Christmas. It’s a terrible thing to do and I now view that company as Scum.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      I’m so sorry that happened to your parents and your family.

      I feel like that person/boss’s train of thought is that they want to unload this burden right before the holidays to make it less stressful on themselves, not realizing how heartless and disrespectful it truly is.

      So, OP, if firing Fergus truly can’t wait until after the holidays, do it ASAP. Don’t wait until the last hour before Christmas.

      1. Nichole*

        Thanks, if they had more warning the layoff was coming they could have prepared. But it was a complete surprise.

        It sounds like the person in the post has some clue he is going to be fired but waiting until January would be kinder.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Nichole, I am so sorry that you and your family went through this. That is awful, and I would probably feel the same way if I were in your shoes.

      1. Nichole*

        Thanks, things are starting to get better for them. But not for the people who got to keep their jobs. Apparently on top of low morale they all got pay cuts and reduced benefits (which were not all that great to begin with). So on the positive side it was probably time for them to leave anyway.

  13. MWKate*

    When I worked for the state, one of the state legislator’s fired his entire staff on Christmas Eve. Lovely.

  14. Dolorous Bread*

    Wait until after the holidays, especially if it has been waiting all this time.
    I was laid off for budgetary reasons early last November, and even that stunk. Thanksgiving and Christmas were really difficult, and no one is hiring going into the holiday season. There were many, many more listings after the new year, and I was able to secure a position in January.
    Our industry used to do their layoffs in September, but over the last couple years they keep getting pushed. We just had one round a couple weeks ago and another round is coming in January (hooray for the dying industry of print publishing!) — But I still think getting a paid christmas holiday is a lot better than a jobless one.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I think that is a fair point – so few companies hire this time of year. It is often the end of the fiscal year, plus closed days and people using PTO… it is just not a time that hiring is done in earnest, I feel like. So unless there is a hefty severance to get them through the holidays and beyond, I think waiting until after is the best option. Unless of course there is real concern that it would be damaging to keep him

    2. Moss*

      Honestly at first I more agreed with firing as soon as possible instead of waiting, but you are totally right that way fewer companies hire during the holiday season and that would make it significantly more difficult for the person being fired than if they were let go any other time of year.

  15. Jamie*

    If the options are right before or right after…I think before is kinder. Christmas Eve itself would suck – very few scenarios would justify that – but even a week or two before so they can adjust their gift giving if need be. It’s going to happen, better to know before someone spends more than they would if they knew they were about to be unemployed.

    Not that an employer has any obligation to care at all about employee spending habits but it’s a courtesy at a time many are known to over extend.

    And that’s how you explain it to employees who are freaked out if someone is let go right before – that they felt it was in the best interest of the employee to know when the decision was made. Personally I’d rather work for people who did that, than those who let people work way too long under a false sense of security. But I don’t always have a typical thought process on this stuff.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I worked as a consultant for a large software company years ago and the unofficial rule was that if you didn’t find yourself a new assignment within 60 days of rolling off a project, you’d probably be on the chopping block. Your manager was supposed to line up your new assignments, but you could put out feelers too, reaching out to PM’s you’ve worked with before and so on.

      Anyway, one December there was a group of people that were going to get laid off. The company had their managers tell them early in the month, and said they had until the beginning of January to find other positions within the company, and if they couldn’t, they’d be laid off. It was a crappy thing for the managers to have to do, and for the employees to hear, but given the circumstances, I thought it was the kindest way to handle it all the way around. The employees knew what was coming, were able to take it into consideration when doing their holiday shopping, and had time to start working on their resumes and start the wheels turning on finding other jobs.

      Obviously if someone is a poor performer and just needs to go, this wouldn’t apply,

  16. Mr Mike*

    Worked for a company that declared bankruptcy in October & decided to shut down the plant, laying-off 720 people + 150 Temps Dec 30. Apparently it was not mean-spirited enough, so they decide to lay us all off Dec 15, instead. BTW in Feb Company HQ asked the bankruptcy court for 4.5 M in bonuses after the same bankruptcy court decided they did not have to pay US accrued vacation. Even the business journalist who wrote the article was in disbelief!

  17. LoV*

    I dunno about waiting. Christmas is potentially a high spending time, so it might be nicer to let him know now before the guy blows his budget.

  18. Milla*

    I worked at a company that did some major layoffs around the holidays.
    People were furloughed, then told the layoffs were coming at Thanksgiving, and 100+ people’s last days ended up being Christmas Eve.
    The company was instantly villainized as the evil grinches who would do this to people and started hemorrhaging those left.
    The slight sliver of kindness in it all: since they knew they were being let go, people could scale back their holiday expenses and not be left with both a giant bill and no job at New Years.

  19. tala*

    I wonder though if by waiting until say, early January, the employee will deduce you knew well before Christmas that they would be fired and be angry you didn’t give them a heads up? Eg. I dropped thousands on Christmas gifts which I wouldn’t have done had you told me you were going to be letting me go!!!

    I know it’s a balance among being kind, getting the employee out and maybe handling a demotivated employee for a few months while they work notice. This is why I’m not a manager anymore.

  20. Lola*

    I was laid off from a Jewish non profit the first week of the new year, so Christmas wasn’t a big deal there. It was not a great way to start out the year.

  21. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer for something like this. On the opposite side, I once quit a job 3 weeks before Christmas and my new job didn’t start until after the new year. My old boss asked me to work the whole 3 weeks instead of the a regular 2-week notice because it was their busy time, and I refused. It was the first time in 3 years I was going to have more than just Christmas day off and I was looking forward to spending it with family and friends.

    I suggest having a conversation with the employee that you can either give him a 3-week notice of termination, or a severance to cover the time.

  22. LJL*

    I had a boss once that was fired the day of the big company holiday party. He was so horrible that the staff celebrated when he was gone and joked about his dismissal being an early Christmas present. He was that bad..

    I know it sounds terrible, but he really did need to go and should have been gone before then, even. Be sure to consider the effect on the overall organization or department affected.

  23. AliceW*

    In my industry layoffs are always done at year end, though not typically the day before Christmas. This is so the company does not have to pay out all of the major year end bonuses.

  24. Engineer Girl*

    Maybe a midway action? Let the employee know that this was the final mistake and that termination will come in the new year. Employee knows termination is coming, but will get a few extra weeks of pay. Make sure you phrase it that way.
    Only do this though is you trust the employee.

  25. just another librarian*

    Honestly, I think it’s fine. Just pay them a few weeks’ severance to be a decent person, see how long you can extend their health insurance for (if applicable) and let everyone move on.

  26. Q*

    Christmas Eve is rough. We’ve had to do a lot of downsizing. Last year it was early in December, this year it was the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. If you are going to go through with it I’d say do it as soon as possible or wait until January. I’m pretty cold hearted but the week before Christmas is just too much.

  27. Emma*

    I think what I always wonder about is – why wait until the end/beginning of the year? Is it just easier from a management or budget perspective? It just seems like so many holidays take place at that time that doing your firings mid-year would be a lot less fraught.

    And yeah, I know there are mid-year holidays and such too (beyond things like July 4, my own religious tradition has a few). But those tend not to be the really big, buy-ALL-the-gifts holidays, at least as far as I know, so it seems like it’d be easier to roll with as an employee.

  28. Trout 'Waver*

    I think it’s crueler to keep someone around after you’ve made the decision to terminate their employment. I would feel like they had just wasted a bunch of my time. I think the kind thing to do is to let them know when you make the decision and offer severance that extends past the holidays.

    1. Trillian*

      That sounds reasonable. Because the holidays are also the time that the coworkers who have worked overtime fixing the incompetent’s mistakes decide they’ve had enough and start looking around.

      1. Gaara*

        That’s a really good point. Having to cover for incompetent (or lazy or whatever) co-workers that management won’t do anything about is super irritating — and something that absolutely drives good performers to leave jobs. By waiting you risk making it more likely that your good employees will leave.

  29. Chickaletta*

    Well, I got laid off right before Thanksgiving a year ago. It was a very small company, owners had already sent out Holiday party invites to everyone, including me, a couple days before. The thing is, they had known for two weeks they were going to let me go. I had thirty minutes to clean out my desk. Lovely.

    But, I bounced back. Most people do.

    If you can do the firing as far ahead of Christmas as possible, like this Friday instead of next, that would give the employee a few days to recover. Maybe they’d even appreciate the extra “time off” (I would, but maybe that’s just me) and use it to update his resume so he can start looking right away after the New Year.

    1. Chickaletta*

      Oh, and if you wait until 2017, that’s a new year for federal taxes, so both the company and he would have to report his earnings for 2017 a whole 16 months from now.

  30. Moonsaults*

    We’re dealing with this right now. It’s so frustrating because it’s a coincidence that the boiling point is at Christmas. My sympathy is low for most people who have a large trail of documentation leading up to their firing, so I could just be the epic Grinch today.

  31. other rick*

    One of my former employers scheduled a holiday luncheon on the Monday before Christmas. One week before the luncheon date, each employee received an informational flyer with red and green clip art and a card “ticket” good for one meal.

    On the Friday before the luncheon, the company laid off a third of its staff. No department was spared. The department admin sitting next to me literally handed me his meal ticket before he was escorted off the premises. My manager pulled the extra meal ticket from my hand immediately after and left the office, presumably to return it or destroy it.

    On Monday, the luncheon went as planned, except there was a choice of chicken and fish, which contradicted the original flyer stating “chicken lunch.” The CEO and company founder’s son drove to our office on the day of the luncheon in a brand-new English sports car.

    At least my Job from Hell had a raucous all-hands holiday party every year before they executed their annual layoffs.

    1. Lucy Westenra*

      That is the sound of me being speechless. I am so glad you don’t work for those bastards anymore.

    2. Emma*

      I don’t know why, but what really gets me is the pettiness of the manager yanking the ticket out of your hand. I mean, the rest is horrible, but that little bit of pettiness really sticks out for some reason.

  32. CC*

    Oh man, as someone who was once told she was being let go on December 24, I agree that you should hold out until January. My boss told me because he wanted me to have as much time as possible to look for jobs (he was leaving the company and the decision was more or less out of his hands. It was a complicated situation), and while I appreciated the heads up, I also then spent most of my family time frantically applying for jobs. My boss had at least negotiated a generous severance package for me, but it was still a very stressful holiday and further pissed off my coworkers when they found out (many were already upset because they saw the amount of work I did…I was basically working 2 1/2 positions for at least $10k less than I should have made for ONE of them).

    All that to say…wait if at ALL possible unless you want to severely impact someone’s holidays and also majorly affect morale.

  33. Cece*

    The head of my division was fired at lunch today (I’m fairly new, so I’m not up on the politics of the decision). The kicker is nonight was our division’s Xmas drinks-at-the-pub. Talk about terrible timing…

  34. anonny*

    In a past life, when I’d just graduated from college and was overwhelmed by life and working at a dysfunctional company, I got fired in early January. It was one of the hardest things that I’ve been through, but I am really grateful they let me stay through the holiday.

  35. Noah*

    I once received a furlough notice from the airline I was working for just after Christmas, they were mailed on December 23rd. It sucked, but we all knew the airline wasn’t doing well, and operations ultimately ceased on January 5th. I’m sure it sucked for the person at HQ that had to print, sign, and mail the letters too.

    I would definitely wait until after the holidays at this point. Unless there is some safety factor, a few weeks won’t make a huge difference to the company.

  36. periwinkle*

    I’m on the “fire now” side.

    Sure, he will take a hit to his morale. But just think of the BOOST this will bring to the morale of the co-workers who have apparently spent months (years?) watching this guy get away with termination-worthy performance. Now that would be spreading some much-needed holiday cheer. Cut the guy loose immediately, give him 3-4 weeks severance, and be done with it.

    (and as someone pointed out earlier, if you keep this guy on until just after the New Year, you won’t be rid of him until January 2018 when payroll sends him the W-2 for his January hours)

    1. CC*

      Actually, on the contrary, I don’t know that many people would be super keen on a company firing anyone this close to the holidays unless their offenses are particularly damaging. I don’t know that anyone is concerned about the guy being let go having a dip in morale; it’s more the remaining employees who have to come to terms with the fact that their employer is ready and willing to let people go during the holidays even if waiting two weeks won’t kill them.

    2. cncx*

      this is the flip side to AAM’s advice- i agree that it is bad for morale to fire before the holidays in general, but what if the employee him/herself is bad for morale? I worked with someone who was so bad that i and the rest of the department would have been thrilled if they got sacked, regardless of the timing. I think this is a case by case thing- if this is an employee who has been fire-ably bad for a long time or is otherwise a bad colleague to be around due to attitude or whatever, it may not hit morale as much as people think even if it is christmas. if the person is a really bad coworker, it may even raise morale.

      normally though, i am all for the either do it far away enough from christmas (like november or something) so people can budget for christmas accordingly, or do it late enough in january to get a paycheck or two in to help the christmas budget settle if they really had no idea.

  37. Zip Silver*

    This is going to sound terrible.

    My corporate office ranks locations based on our turnover, and we have unusually low turnover for 2016. I have an employee that needs to be let go, and have been putting it off until we hired somebody else. Well we found somebody, and I want the turnover to hit this year, because this year is done and over with, so we’re letting the employee go on Thursday. Sad situation, but she is the beating heart of drama in the office.

    1. Lucy Westenra*

      It makes sense, though I admit I think it’s a bit cold. But it sounds like she brought it on herself.

      Getting rid of problematic people is like pulling splinters. Hurts, but better once you’re done.

  38. Lucy Westenra*

    Well, I just got the axe literally yesterday, so obviously it’s doable and I don’t really mind any more than I would at another time of year. But then, I’m not a very Christmasy person. Maybe it’s different for your employee. Still, I think you’re a very considerate person for even asking the question.

      1. Lucy Westenra*

        Thanks and thanks. I’ll be okay. HR lady said I could reapply in a few months if I get proficient in the skill they fired me over. I’ve already started studying. And at least now I finally have time to do some CE, since I do have a license to maintain. Glad to meet a fellow fan of gothic horror.

  39. Peep*

    I also used to think waiting until after the holidays to let someone go was the kinder option, but I had a conversation with someone who actually did get laid off around the holidays that gave me a new perspective on it.

    I went to the mall sometime between Christmas and New Year’s a couple years ago, and I was shocked to see one of the stores I frequent going out of business. While I checked out, I chatted with the clerk to expressed my sympathies and find out what happened, since everything was fine when was there a week before. Turns out the entire staff were blindsided that day by the decision to close that location. It’s a rare store out here, and there was no other location to move anyone to, so everybody lost their jobs – effective in about 2 weeks from the day they found out. I expressed my sympathies, and said something about how at least they had waited until after Christmas to do it.

    The clerk told me that she really wished they had told her before Christmas because she celebrated Christmas thinking she had a stable job. She told me had she known before, she would’ve done things a lot differently since she’d probably have a long search for a new job right after the holidays. The money spent on gifts, travel, and food would be sorely missed in the coming months, and that bit of advance notice during the most expensive time of the year would have really helped her. It’s hard to say which is the worse way to do things – ruin Christmas for the employee by telling them in advance, or let them celebrate the holidays thinking they’ll have the next few months to “recover” from Christmas.

  40. erin*

    I’m of two minds on this one. It definitely sucks to fire someone right before Christmas. But man, I think it’d REALLY suck to go through Christmas, spending money on gifts, only to come back and be fired. Not that people should overspend at Christmas, but if you know you’re out of a job, you may save yourself a little money and be able to tell people that times are tight, etc. If you just bought your stupid Brother In Law that set of skis he wanted and then come back to learn that you were fired – well, I probably wouldn’t take that well.

  41. Jennifer's Hardworking Thneed*

    It’s funny, there’s no good way to fire someone, but there are lots of bad ways.

    I think my personal worst was right after the 2007/2008 crash. I had managed to scrape a temp job doing some boring writing, and I was let go pretty fast. Maybe three weeks? Anyway, they let me drive all the way to the jobsite and get worried and puzzled because my door badge wasn’t working, and then I was fired via telephone call with the temp agency.

    (This is as close as I get to a terrible break-up-by-getting-dumped story.)

  42. Saucy Minx*

    This fellow has been on multiple PIPs & should have been fired long ago.

    He has now made a mistake that is expensive to the company & will cost him his job, & not before time.

    I wonder why he would receive any severance, when he is way overdue to being shown the door, having cost the company plenty even without a severance package.

  43. Former Borders Refugee*

    Well, my contract job just announced to a group of about 40 of us that our project is ending….tomorrow. The staffing agency manager apologized profusely for the terrible timing.

    I admit I’m mostly annoyed that I scheduled my Christmas trip home to be as short as possible, and now its way too expensive to change the plane tickets for a longer trip.

    1. Lucy Westenra*

      Damn, I’m sorry.

      And of course, I don’t know your personal financial situation, but if you can, eat the cost of a longer trip. Family’s worth it and they won’t be around forever.

  44. Gaia*

    The last person I had to fire, it ended up being 3 days after she came back from her wedding. I felt horrible but there was no way we could wait, the behavior was so egregious.

      1. Gaia*

        She intentionally lied about how she handled a customer complaint and falsified client emails to support her case.

    1. DCGirl*

      Back in my fund raising days, my VP of Development at a college fired our file clerk after she’d already obtained a transfer to another department. Her performance had been less than optimal and her attitude was less than stellar, but HR decided it was just a bad fit and let her apply for a position in the mail room. HR did not like the VP and seemed to blame the issue on him, not here.

      All she had to do was work out her last two weeks in the Development Office before moving on. She was so stinking nasty to everyone in our department those last two weeks. On her next to last day, the VP asked her to do something, and she told him exactly what he could with his request. He called HR, told them what happened, and they agreed that he might have been right about her performance and attitude all along. She was fired that afternoon. He was vilified all over campus for being so mean, but it was only because those people hadn’t worked with her.

      A year and a half after she left, we had to move a couple of filing cabinets and found shopping bags full of filing that she’d hidden back there.

  45. nonymous*

    I think the key is first to make sure that there is a clear progression to fired status (e.g. PIP, counseling, etc) and then fairness about benefits. For example, my mom’s employer closed down for the week between Christmas and New Years’, so being fired right before that holiday would have meant about a $1K pay cut for the year, for a week that no one works. And for companies with a minimal holiday benefit – say 8 days – it’s possible that > 1/3 are between Christmas and New Years. Is it right to yank 1/3 of the year’s holiday pay if an employee works 11 mos?

  46. Chaordic One*

    Back at “Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd.” the number one time to fire people was in the week before profit-sharing bonuses were passed out. They would also go on a major hiring binge right after the sixth month of their fiscal year (so the new hire would not be eligible for any profit-sharing bonus).

    Great place to work.

  47. Jenn-X*

    I think there’s a good argument to terminate someone before the holidays instead of waiting. In a previous job I had, there were some layoffs in early December. When the exec committee was asked by remaining employees why they couldn’t wait until after the new year to lay people off the reply was something like “should we wait and let people spend money/go into debt buying presents knowing they will lose their source of income when the holidays are over?” To me this is a good reason to do it sooner rather than later.

    1. Huh*

      It’s kinder to let people enjoy their festive season without the additional stress of job loss and job search.

      The exec committee’s reasoning (“if we lay people off now they won’t spend so much and we’ll save them money in the long run”) is a poor excuse to inflict significant anxiety during what is supposed to be a happy catch up time with family/friends. Often employers consider multiple factors when deciding appropriate lay off time; and how an employee spends their own money should not be one of them.

      A “saving” of couple of hundred dollars or whatever is not worth the kind of extra stress they’ll endure.

      1. Jenn-X*

        They weren’t saying (tacitly or otherwise) they care how people spend their money. But what if someone spends a couple thousand on a credit card and then they are stuck with a credit card balance they can’t pay after they lose their job? Or even a couple of hundred dollars that could potentially be a lot of money to some? They couldn’t know every scenario about each employees Christmas spending habits, they were making a decision they felt was in the best interests of the employees who inevitably were being laid off. Some of those who were laid off were my friends. Though being laid off was terrible and there was no ideal time to do this, some expressed to me they were grateful for the timing for that very reason, others said would have preferred that the layoffs happen after Christmas.

  48. F.*

    I was laid off (read: fired without cause) from Very Large Dysfunctional Financial Services Corporation on December 18 with no notice or warning. At the time, I was a single mother of two. Fortunately, I had not spent much for Christmas gifts. The unemployment check barely covered the COBRA insurance payment for my children (as required by my custody agreement), never mind the child support I had to pay my ex, since he had physical custody the majority of the time.

  49. ED*

    My department actually just terminated 2 people (I’m a manager and I actually terminated one of them) in the past 2 weeks. Honestly, I don’t feel bad about it. Both were clearly told what their performance expectations were and what would happen if they didn’t meet them. They didn’t meet them. So what happened is exactly what we said would happen. Keeping staff on that cannot meet performance expectations thusly causing more work/stress for their coworkers (even if they do have a good rapport with everyone, which they did) are not people that should be kept on just because it’s the holidays. Even though it makes us short staffed around a time when the work is already crunched because of the holidays, the majority of the staff seem relieved that those people are no longer here. Deciding weather or not to keep a person should be a business decision (yes I know I sound like Scrooge). It was a liability to keep them.
    Also as a side note, the employee I let go actually THANKED me as they were leaving and told me they appreciated the guidance and support that I had provided them over their tenure. Which goes to show if you do things right/well a reasonable person will understand why you are letting them go.

  50. KrystalKY*

    Might be the first time I disagree with Alison. I believe there is a lot of benefits to letting an employee go before the holiday. Clearly there is the financial aspect of the employee cutting back on spending for the holidays. However, it also gives the employee an opportunity to enjoy the holiday season at home with friends and family. I would be upset if I worked the day before/after Christmas limiting time with out of town guests just to be let go a week later.
    The only downside I can see to this is the morale for the remaining employees. However, if you are doing your due diligence as a manager, you are clearly communicating with your team that everyone is given an opportunity to improve. And in your department/team, there are no surprises.

  51. Red In SC*

    Really late to this one, but I would say, fire the person as soon as possible. At our work we got hit with owing unemployment insurance to a poor performer simply because we did not let him go immediately after he had his 4th accident (he was one of our drivers), so the board came back and said it that it couldn’t be entirely performance related if you kept him on a couple of weeks after the fire-able event.

    So, I would suggest letting the employee go more quickly than less.

  52. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    I immediately thought of this question yesterday when I found out that a friend’s boss laid off three people yesterday – not only with the holidays coming up, but today is one of the guy’s birthday. And all I could think was “WOW – that’s terrible” – which of course my friend thinks too. Morale is CRAZY low because of it.

    Something else to consider – how it affects morale of those you keep

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