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Termination by “Mr. Nice Guy”

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 by Slaughter Development

In the humor publication The Onion a spoof editorial relays an annoying workplace conversation where the question, “Hey you got a second?”, is followed by the worst possible news. Although satire, this piece offers a vivid picture of workplace communication gone bad.

The opinion column recounts a farcical “informal meeting” chock full of insincere undertones. In one excerpt, Katz portrays the obvious irony of a supervisor’s nonchalant attitude:

Hey man, whenever you get a sec—and it’s no biggie—I was hoping you could just pop on over to my office real quick so I can fire you.

Nothing to worry about. Trust me. Just a short little one-on-one session about you being fired. We’ll have a bit of unnecessary and degrading small talk and then I’ll clunkily segue into terminating your position here. I’ll follow up by apologizing like I care and that’ll be that. The whole thing will take a second out of your day. Promise.

Successful companies place a high value on employee contribution and collegial respect. Phrases like “whenever you got a sec” and proposals for a “short little one-on-one session” are an attempt to downplay the impact of interrupting someone else’s work. Claims that you have “nothing to worry about” and should “trust me” are in fact signals to do the opposite! Being cornered into an impromptu meeting or small talk at the office defeats the purpose of business: to manage time and energy efficiently so we can get things done.

Although most organizations do take employee termination more seriously than the made-up story from this comedy newspaper, we have all been subjected to fruitless invasions of our time and heard offhand comments that destroy our morale. Even the simplest of statements (such as “it’s not a big deal, but…”) can rattle an employee’s nerves. Cryptic messages have a polarizing effect that results in an uneasy and potentially counterproductive environment. As examined previously in the article, “That’s Not My Job”, workplace language can change moods, create resentment or bring unwanted stress. Used properly, however, one’s choice of words can also positively impact perspectives.  Slaughter Development not only analyzes your company’s existing processes, but also its flow of communication. We believe that how we talk about work is as important as how we complete tasks. Great organizations have satisfied stakeholders, who use positive language to support each other. Find out more about how you communicate and work together. Contact us today to arrange for a consultation.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

Five Ways To “Play Nice” - After spending 40-hours a week together, some teams within an organization become so close that they start behaving like a dysfunctional family.  In other words, professional behavior goes flying out the door and team members stop “playing nice.”  This, of course, is a recipe for disaster that often results in disengaged employees and a loss of productivity. Read on »
Caps Lock Termination - You might lose your job for any number of reasons, but being fired is usually connected to a major mistake. One New Zealand woman, however, was terminated because of her use of the caps lock key. Read on »
Sleeping on the Job - We’ve all been tempted to doze off at the office. A new report, however, explains that some companies are actually encouraging their employees to sleep at work!
Read on »
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