Saturday, November 19, 2005

You're Fired

I had to fire someone today. This was not the first time I’ve had to do such a thing, so it was not a completely new experience. Yet it is still quite unsettling.

The woman I had to fire was perfectly nice. She never said a negative thing. She came to work on time, was never tardy from break or lunches. She sat in her chair and did her job to the best of her ability. In many ways she was a model employee.

Except, she was a rather terrible collector. I’m a collections supervisor for a credit card company. My employees are paid to collect on past due accounts. The gig is all about numbers: number of calls made, numbers of cardholders contacted, payments converted, and of course, dollars collected. To survive you have to play the numbers.

This is something that this woman could just not do. You could say she was just too nice. And it’s true; to be a collector you have to have something of a dark side within you. But it is more than just being mean, there are plenty of very nice collectors who do excellent work. It’s part salesmanship, part thick-leathery skin, and mostly being able to push a little, prod a lot that gets the job done.

Besides not just having the collector instinct, this lady didn’t seem to grasp some of the fundamental concepts behind the job. Simple things that most people understand quickly and mold it into their work personality, she just couldn’t seem to get.

All of this is to say that the termination could be seen from a far distance. In fact, I had a long conversation with her a couple of weeks ago, warning her that unless things really improved, I’d have to let her go. Things did get better, she did improve, but not nearly enough to warrant keeping her on the payroll.

So, this afternoon, I pulled her aside, and let her go.

Did I mention that this lady had mentioned to my boss a couple of weeks back that I “made her uncomfortable?” Earlier, on that day, I had reached across her person and logged her out of the system, using her mouse. This is something I do often, and is only a gesture meant to expedite the process of them getting off the phone so that I may talk to them. Apparently this gesture offended her in some way, enough to make her say something to my boss.

Now, she never used the word “harassment” but this is the first thing that rang in my head when my boss told me. Holy crap! Visions of lawsuits and besmirching of my permanent record began ringing in my head.

Now here I was approaching her so that I could terminate her permanently.

I called Human Resources to tell them I was none to comfortable having that conversation. They insured me it would be ok and told me to have another supervisor with me.

It went as well as those things go. I explained it wasn’t personal, wished her well and sent her on her way. She gave me the whole “I really need this job” speech, but I had to stand firm.

I hate this. She really was a nice lady, possible harassment charges and all. And here I am throwing her out, not long before Christmas and all that.

Terminating employees is part of my job, I accept this. But it still sinks my heart.

Post termination, I hid out in the back of the office, allowing her time to gather her things and leave the office. I didn’t want any awkward moments where she was passing my desk in order to tell her workmates goodbye.

As she left, and I reentered the floor, a coworker, decides to tell me she is sitting in her car, crying.

Yeah, like I needed that.

So, here I am feeling like a heel, and there she is without a job.

This sucks.

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