It didn’t escape me this past Sunday that USC head coach Lane Kiffin was fired in a private room at an airport. Kiffin and the USC team were just returning from a loss at Arizona State University and the AD thought the best thing to do was fire him in the airport. An airport seems like an odd place to perform a termination of a Division 1 Football coach. I mean, why fire him at the airport, why not bring him into the AD’s office, the next day or that evening, and have that conversation? Make sure you have all of your paperwork and have talked through everything with your legal team.
It wasn’t that I was surprised. Being in the HR field for 20 years, I’ve had my share of odd places to fire people. For the most part you can call an employee into their bosses office, an HR conference room, etc. to be fired. The tricky ones are when you’re dealing with an employee who is off site, a remote worker or the supervisor and worker reside at different locations. Sometimes leadership termination locations can be tricky as well.
I started to think where were some of the odd places I’ve had to terminate an individual? Here’s the top 4 I could come up with:
1. My Car. Yep, right there in the front seat of my Hyundai. I was a Regional HR Manager and was mostly on the road working out of my car. I once had to fire a manager in my car. From a spacial standpoint it was a little uncomfortable. Think about any serious conversation you’ve ever had in a car. You have to turn sideways, you’re only inches from the other person.
2. A Burger King. It wasn’t the bathroom! But afterwards, I joked with an HR coworker of mine that ‘I got busy in a Burger King bathroom’ doing HR (Digital Underground shout out!). Many times we don’t want to terminate someone onsite at your own work location, so you set up some elaborate scheme to get them offsite and terminate them there. The problem is, you’re in a public location! You might have the best intentions and you show up at 10am at your local Burger King just as they have a class field trip going through and learning about the new “Satisries!” It’s recipe for disaster, but everyone I know in HR has at some point made the decision to go offsite to terminate someone!
3. A Starbucks. Starbucks might actually be the official SHRM location for Terminations! Starbucks should sell official naming rights for a termination spot. Nothing says ‘Termination’ like a nondescript meeting notice at Starbucks on a Friday afternoon around 3pm. Coffee shops in general are great firing locations. Quiet, you don’t have to buy anything if you don’t want, and it seems semi-plausible that you might actually just meet an employee there to discuss work stuff.
4. A Walk-in Freezer. When you work in restaurants, sometimes the only private place you have is the walk-in cooler and/or freezer. The freezer works best for two reasons: 1. You want these conversations to go quickly; and 2. Tears will freeze. Plus I think the extreme cold helps to break the shock factor.
So, what about it HR Pros – give me your best/worst location for terminations that you’ve had to use!