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  • michellealvis9

Terminate An Employee From The Car? Um, no.

CLIENT: “Can I call you from my car to talk about terminating an employee?”

ME: “No, you cannot.”

  • The reality is we are all very busy.

  • The reality is we all do our jobs in different ways now, not necessarily in an office.

  • The reality is we are all in competition for each others time and expertise during the workday.

  • The reality is sometimes you need to get in your car to drop your child off at school and you are in the middle of your workday.

  • The reality is many people do their jobs from their laptops and phones in their cars.

  • I totally understand all of these realities. And most of the time, I take calls from clients in any way, shape or form they come to me because I understand everyone is busy and needs my consultation.


This past month I have had two different clients who wanted to terminate their employees for different reasons. Both times when they called me to discuss the situations, they were driving their cars, in a wild hurry and beyond unfocused. One client had their loud child in the back who was distracting both me and the client.

I quickly realized how inappropriate this was for many reasons and politely asked each of them to call me back when they had time to discuss the matter when they were focused and without distractions. One of them said ‘Can’t we just talk about this now’? And while I always try and deliver superior service to my clients, I politely declined and said it would be better to have this conversation at another time and told them I would clear my schedule for a time that worked for them.

Here are four reasons why it is NOT OKAY to consult about firing an employee while you are driving or otherwise distracted:

There are more times than not, complex facts that come into play when an employer gets to this stage of discipline. Before your HR consultant or legal counsel can give the go ahead on termination, the facts must be sorted out. This process requires the employer to focus heavily on the facts and relaying the correct information to your HR department or your consultant. If you are driving, you are distracted. Period. The probability you will miss giving important facts to the consultant is very high if you are driving. Additionally, if any documentation needs to be sent to them, you cannot do that while you are driving.

2. It sends the message they are not taking the decision seriously.

3. It is disrespectful to the employee about to be terminated.

The employee may never know this consultation took place while their employer was driving, but I will. It shows me that culturally you don’t value your employees as much as your values statement says you do. I have had the most egregious terminations in my career and employees whose behavior clearly warranted termination. But no matter what, it is imperative that all humans are treated with dignity and respect, even in a termination. The person has provided you as the employer their time and skills for at least a short amount of time. Even if the termination is for bad behavior, any discussion about the decision should be done respectfully.

In a perfect world, everyone would give us 100% of their attention while on the phone. Unfortunately that is not the workplace today and to some extent, we all understand that. However, both of my time as a consultant and my client's time is valuable and treating a call over a serious matter in this way also shows disrespect for your consultant or HR too. Being preoccupied when discussing such a serious matter is just plain rude. As the employer making a phone call to ask for help in such a serious manner, it’s imperative you give your HR department, HR Consultant or legal counsel the time and attention they too deserve to ensure they can provide the best service to you. Whether it’s distraction or rudeness, my hope is people do better, especially in these types of situations.

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