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I work in Germany, where a company can fire an employee at will in the first six months, but only for very good reasons afterwards. So the first six months are seen as a kind of probation period.

In the company and the department I work in, it is extremely rare that someone is fired in the first six months. So rare that nobody really considers this possibility. But recently it did happen.

She surely had her weaknesses, but it was also a very difficult situation. Without going into details, I think part of the problem was that she didn't get to see anything of the actual job she was hired to do for four months.

Also, the layoff came as a complete surprise to her. They gave her only the mandatory two week's notice, and went to great lengths to conceal their intentions from her, not only not giving her any warning, but also ostentatiously alluding to her future tasks only days before they fired her.

Two weeks ago, her successor arrived. Our boss already told him he's going to do something else at first. I'm really afraid this is going down exactly the same way as before.

Should I warn him?

On the one hand, it might encourage him to take an active role in his training and maybe show our boss some eagerness to start his actual job, which, in my opinion, would benefit his chances greatly.

On the other hand, this is his first job ever. He is clearly nervous, and telling him he might get fired is not going to help. Also, I could be completely overestimating the danger and create problems out of nothing.

I'm in the same team, but probably not directly working together with him in the next six months. If our boss asks my opinion, I'll give it, but otherwise it's not my immediate concern. It is rather a perceived moral obligation between colleagues that makes me want to interfere.

So, should I tell my colleague he might get fired?

closed as off-topic by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Michael Grubey, Jan Doggen, Telastyn Sep 22 '14 at 16:11

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  • "Questions asking for advice on what to do are not practical answerable questions (e.g. "what job should I take?", or "what skills should I learn?"). Questions should get answers explaining why and how to make a decision, not advice on what to do. For more information, click here." – gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Michael Grubey
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  • why not just tell them the last person in this role got fired? that will come out in the wash anyway. you don't - and shouldn't - infer that this person might be fired. they presumably know what a "probationary period" is. – bharal Sep 20 '14 at 21:41
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  • @Stephan: It's not a duplicate. In that question, the OP knows his colleague is getting fired. – anonymous Sep 21 '14 at 12:38
  • I find it quite harsh to be put on hold. There are a lot of highly upvoted questions on this site that ask on advice what to do. How is mine worse? – anonymous Sep 22 '14 at 16:46
  • @ReallyTiredOfThisGame – anonymous Sep 23 '14 at 16:05
18

I would not tell the new employee that they might get fired. You don't really know what management's plans are... perhaps management has learned from the previous situation and will handle this differently. And as you say, telling the new employee that they might be doomed may stress them out and affect their work, perhaps making this a self-fulfilling prophecy. And finally, you may get in trouble if management suspects that you did this.

Instead, I would give the new employee whatever general, but helpful advice, that could help them succeed. For example I might say something like "you might want to start learning about XYZ; I recommend this book", or "sometimes these temporary tasks go on for a while; you might want to remind the boss that you're anxious to get started on real task". In other words, give him your mentoring and guidance to help him succeed, but without scaring him with your suspicions.

8

You are in no position to tell a new person they might get fired. Everyone might get fired, but if it gets back to your management that you said that to the new hire, they may consider it an act of disloyalty or even sabotage.

Do not tell them that. Instead, welcome the new hire as a new team member. Take them to lunch, if you can afford to do so. Point them to resources they can draw from to better do their new job. They may ask about the department before they arrived. I see no problem with answering their questions, but make absolutely no forward looking statements based on the past. Let them form their own conclusions. You can create value for your firm by helping them become successful.

If they make decisions based on your clairvoyance, and you are wrong, you'll have done them a very big disservice. Keep your predictions and speculations to yourself. Do not tell someone they might get fired because you simply suspect it.

-3

I would say if the employee about to get fired has children, and will be in a very bad position financially if they were suddenly fired, I would tell them that I heard people might get fired and "we should all update our resumes and look for what's out there" to tip them off. An employer shouldn't put a family into crisis because employers never give "two weeks" advance notice like employees are supposed to do.

Or I might tell them directly. Hey man(or woman), I heard you might be looked at for firing.

I did this once, and the employee went right to the boss and asked "am I going to be fired??" and they pressed him to reveal the name of the person who told them about the impending firing (me). So you might do it anonymously, or preface it by saying I have some information but I ask that you not say where it came from. That's still risky, but I feel that a good person will bear a risk for the wellbeing of another person. And I would expect my friends to inform me of critical information like that.

As with other things in life - make the decision by what your heart tells you to do, do NOT make a decision based on fear of the outcome.

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    single people without children are often in a bad postion when losing their job because they only have one income to rely on whereas married people often have two. Or maybe the person has medical bills to pay or a dependant parent. Maybe teh parent has a trust fund and doesn't even need to work. A person's marital status or child status is not an indicator of how much he or she needs. This assumtion that people with children deserve preference is obnoxious. – HLGEM Sep 21 '14 at 17:15
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    " employers never give "two weeks" advance notice" - you did notice that the question was tagged [germany] ? Employers in Europe are generally held to a higher standard. Failure to follow dismissal procedures may make the dismissal legally invalid, i.o.w. the employment contract continues. And since dismissal after 6 months is much harder (in germany), there may not be time to correct the error. – MSalters Sep 22 '14 at 11:42
  • Some clarity: I consider that if you have a family, and several people rely on your one income, then that to me is more of a reason to accept risk to help them than if they only have one person dependent on that income. Three dependents is more important than one, but you may feel differently. Sure it is always bad if someone loses their job. I'm not saying it's great. It's up to you where your personal line is when accepting risk to help prevent them from losing their job. – SpaceNinja Sep 22 '14 at 13:45

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