Earnest Pettie, comedy writer
If only it were as easy as Donald Trump makes it seem to be fired. On The Apprentice, contestants walk into a dimly lit room, sit before a triumvirate headed by Donald Trump, who cuts them down and fires them with rapidity, guillotining your career ambitions. Ah, if only it were so easy. Getting fired is less like being beheaded and more like being trampled to death. As it’s happening, all you can do is ask yourself, “Why is this taking so long?”
There must be a way to make firing a more humane experience, and I think I’ve come up with a perfect solution. First we have to change corporate America’s view of employment. Corporate America is too clingy. Each time a company hires a person, that person is less an employee and more a family member, part of a large extended family in which members get paid for performance and are governed by laws and rules they’ve had no part in creating. The company hates to see a family member leave the nest, especially when that family member, due to circumstances often beyond the company’s control (’curse you, evil shareholders!’ thinks the company), is tossed from the nest unceremoniously and with great shedding of tears. Corporate America has to stop thinking of its employees as family members and start thinking of new hires as potential fires. It is, after all, inevitable, that an employee is going to engage in behavior that will get him or her fired. It’s human nature. The company, then, should start looking toward the firing of the employee, considering how to make it as comfortable as possible.
There is nothing better than waking up the morning after daylights savings time has ended, realizing that you have an hour more to sleep because you’ve forgotten to reset your clock, and sleeping for three more hours, missing any and all appointments you had that day. Beautiful. Wouldn’t it be a comfort to wake up to a telephone call at 7:30 AM, your employer suggesting you get a couple hours more rest because you needn’t come to work today? It’s no more difficult to fire someone at the end of the day than at the beginning, so why not give it a shot?
The forward thinking company will have prepared for this day for each of its employees. The company’s job applications, since they already require useless information, will have asked the employee questions about his or her interests, hobbies, friends, and acquaintances. That information will have been compiled in anticipation of this firing, and that information will be used to fill out an FTD gift basket. Since the employee will have a lot of spare time, maybe a book or movie, tailored to the employee’s interests will be included. Definitely tickets to the local theater will be found in the basket. Maybe even a guide to local events with certain events of interest highlighted and marked with a note such as “You and Pat would love this!” That basket would arrive in the middle of the day, just as the employee was finally waking up. At the bottom of the basket, under the pile of gifts, the company would have been nice enough to include a note saying “It’s not you; it’s us. Enjoy your newly-acquired free time!”
This isea will probably be a little more controversial than the others, but it’s not without its merits. The one thing a new entrant into the job market needs is confidence. No matter how nice a company is to a new fire, one can easily lose one’s confidence upon being fired. Especially when that person goes to the gas station to buy a candy bar and has his or her debit card denied. “But, heh heh, I swear there’s money in there! I’m going to have to call someone and really let them have it, boy I tell ya!” says the person before running back to the car to cry. To bolster the new fire’s confidence, a week after an employee has been fired, maybe his or her manager could call and leave a message on the answering machine, feigning despair. Near tears, the manager could come right up to the edge of begging the ex-employee to come back to work before rejecting the idea out of fear of reprisal from supperiors, sobbing into the telephone that beauracracy– not Crystal Meth– is really what’s depleting America’s stock.
Obviously many of these ideas will seem to progressive for all but the most thoughtful of companies (Wal-Mart, Adidas, and Consolidated Papers and Pens) to adopt, but all one leader is all that is required to bring others onto the right path.