How Do You Know You Have Been Fired? 700 Hundred Words about People Skills

January 26, 2023

I read “Some Google Employees Didn’t Realize They Were Laid Off Until Their Badges Wouldn’t Let Them into the Office.” The write up reports in the manner of an person learning something quite surprising:

One laid-off Google employee, a software engineer who requested anonymity to speak freely, told Insider that he witnessed one of his co-workers repeatedly try to scan his employee badge to get into Google’s Chelsea, New York office, only for the card reader to turn red and deny him entry.

Yep. Code Red. Badge denied light Red. Google management Red Faced? Nah. Just marketing and a few others. No big deal.

How is Googzilla supposed to fire people? Get one of the crack People People to talk face-to-face with a Google wizard? Ain’t happening, kiddo. Perhaps a chill video call to which the newly unemployed super brains can connect and watch a video explaining that your are now officially non-essential. The good news, of course, is that one can say, “I am a Xoogler. I will start a venture fund. Or, I will invent the next great app powered by ChatGPT. Or, Mom I will be moving in next week. I’ve been fired.

Let’s go back in time. How about the mid 1970s when the US government urged buildings housing work deemed sensitive to implement better security systems. At the time, many buildings used a person sitting behind a big desk with a bunch of paper. One would state one’s name and the person one wanted to visit face-to-face. I told you we were going back in time. The person at the desk would use a telephone handset connected to a big console and call the extension of the person whom one wanted to meet. Then that person would send someone down to escort the outsider to a suitable meeting room. (Don’t ask about the measures in place in the meeting room, please.)

An employee would show an official badge, typically connected to an item of clothing or hanging from a lanyard. The person behind the desk would smile in recognition, push a button, and a gate would open. The person with the badge would walk to the elevators and ride to the appropriate floor. There are variations, of course.

But the main idea is that this electronic smart security was not in place. When a person was to be fired, that person would typically be in a cube or a manager’s office. The blow was delivered in person, sometimes with a bloodhound’s sad look or a bit of a smile that suggested the manager delivering the death blow was having fun.

Then the revolution. The building in which I worked toward the end of the 1970s got the electric key card thing. The day after that system was installed, my boss who ran the standalone unit of a blue chip consulting firm decided to fire people by disabling the person’s key card. Believe it or not, the Big Boss, the head of what was then called Human Resources, and I drove from the underground parking garage to the No Parking zone in front of the building and watched as people found their key card had been disabled.

My recollection is that because the firm had RIFed a couple of hundred people earlier in the week, we could observe the former blue chippers reaction. It was interesting. The most amazing thing is that the head of Human Resources put in place a procedure to terminate people via a phone call, allow them to return to the building and enter with a security escort to retrieve pictures of the wives, girl friends, animals, boats, or swimming trophy. Then the person could put the personal effects in a banker’s box and the escort would get the person out of the building. The escort then collected the dead key card.

That’s humane. What’s interesting is that Google’s management team ignored the insight out Human Resources’ person had: Find a way to minimize the craziness outside of the building. Avoid creating a news event on a busy street in Washington, DC. Figure out a procedure that eliminates, “Can you send me the picture of my dog Freddy?” to a person still working at the blue chip outfit.

But Google. Nope. Now it’s headline time and public exposure of the firm’s management excellence.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2023


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