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Susan M. Heathfield

Why Not Just Say: "You're Fired"

By September 19, 2013

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Maybe I'm too straight forward and blunt. Or, maybe it's that I believe I have done everything possible to help an employee improve, before I fire the employee, but I'm not big on euphemisms. Those are the words that managers use to "soften the blow," "blunt the impact," make the former employee (or themselves, frankly) "feel" better and dodge the reality of, "You're fired."

Do I say, "You're fired"? No. Am I a Donald Trump? No. But, I am very likely to inform the employee that we have tried to help them improve their work and the improvement efforts have failed, since their work shows little or no improvement. Consequently, their employment with our company is terminated. No, they are not terminated. That is HR speak that I absolutely hate.

Or, I may tell the employee that their employment with our company is over due to the performance issues we have repeatedly identified with them. I do remember telling an employee whom I liked, "We are letting you go because watching pornographic movies at your desk at work is absolutely unacceptable. Is there anything you need from your desk before I walk you to your car? I'll be happy to meet you after work so you can clean out your desk." (I think that was a clear, "you're fired.")

To another group, I said, "We are eliminating your job because we have eliminated your complete department." I can also remember a rare instance of, "Our economic situation requires that we layoff a percentage of our employees. You are being laid off as part of this effort to reduce costs." And later in the meeting, "No, we will not consider rehiring you if the economic situation improves." Why lie, why mislead? Why use confusing euphemisms, when the truth may hurt, but the truth is clear?

What got me going on this topic? Thanks to Richard Nordquist, our brilliant and humorous grammar guy at About.com. If grammar reminds you of diagramming sentences on a blackboard - oops, am I dating myself? - or other obnoxious memories, Richard's site is a breath of fresh gramm - air Do check out his: Fifty Reasons You'll Never Be Told, "You're Fired". He offers more fun posts at the lighter side of language. Think Simpsons, Sopranos, and SNOOTS. Add House.

Do you have a love-hate, or maybe just hate, relationship with HR euphemisms? I do. In fact, I have a mostly hate relationship with HR language in general. Another favorite, how would you like to be downsized, right sized, or made redundant? Yuck.

Share your favorite examples of HR jargon. Whether euphemisms, misleading statements, CYA wording, or just plain, not-understandable-to-mortal-ears HR jargon, what are your faves? What HR jargon do you love to hate?

Image Copyright Nicholas Monu

Seriously, More About Firing Employees

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