Advice I never took Part 3: Don’t be so nice
The advice I never took series has been on hiatus but its back today talking about being “nice.” The first two posts in this series were about smiling and business cards check them out if you have a minute.
One of the hardest things an HR professional has to do is participate in a termination meeting. It is a difficult situation not only because of the bad news being delivered but also because you have no idea how the other person will react. You may think you know, but you just never know until it happens.
Maybe your company doesn’t “require” that HR sit in on termination meetings but typically risk- adverse companies do require this. Sometimes a manager may even specifically request it (quick! Where’s my HR shield?).
So one day, early in my career I sat in on a termination meeting. The employee’s position was being eliminated amidst many other layoffs and cutbacks going on at the company. I remember sitting down in the office and waiting for the employee to come in. I think that was the worst. I really didn’t want to be there (nobody does). When the employee came in, I was relieved that she pretty much knew what was happening.
After the “discussion” I shook the employees hand and offered her my business card and advised her to call me if she had any questions. After she left, the manager “offered me some advice. The advice? “Don’t be so nice” The manager proceeded to explain that I was just opening myself up to getting a bunch of calls from the employee “wanting to re-negotiate severance or not get laid off.”
I take feedback seriously and use it to improve my skills but not in this case. I think if you are laying someone off it’s pretty difficult to be too nice. It really isn’t even about “being nice.” It’s about compassion and respect. If the roles were reversed wouldn’t you want to be treated with compassion and respect?
Now, there are some situations where compassion doesn’t come into play: such as if the company is firing someone for theft, or harassment or some other intolerable offense. Hey man, in that situation you dug your own grave, no sympathy from me.
In this situation? No way am I going to be anything but helpful.
So did I get tons of phone calls begging me for a better package or to stop the layoff? Nope. I received two phone calls:
1.) Letting me know she signed the agreement and was sending it back to me
2.) Asking me if I could get her password to employee self-service re-set so she could print her last paycheck.
Bottom line? Don’t be afraid to show a little compassion, regardless how routine certain events become we are still dealing with humans. Don’t ever forget that.