I'm the team lead for my company's content writing team, and my boss just terminated one of my team members.

The protocol states that the erring employee gets an official warning first, and is terminated if there's no improvement. This protocol was not followed, there was no warning.

Now this guy made a mistake, I'm not denying that, but the severity of the reaction has left me and my team reeling. The now ex-employee is good at what he does, and lack of performance has never been an issue. Yet, that is exactly the reason that was given.

My objective is to get him back. Any suggestions or advice would be welcome.

  • Not since he first told me about 8 hours ago, he's the kind where you let him cool off and then try to convince him otherwise. I do have the support of another team lead that works with our team. – Kerambit Jun 1 '17 at 11:19
  • You said he made a mistake, but management gave a different reason for why he was terminated? Just to confirm, do you know what your colleague did, or how it differed from the 'official' reason? – user34587 Jun 1 '17 at 11:26
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    Have you talked to your colleague and confirmed he would want to come back? Otherwise you could start a fight for recovery only to realize your colleague doesn't even want it. – Erik Jun 1 '17 at 11:35
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    I should have asked this first; does your colleague actually want to come back? It is possible, however unlikely, that a more severe cause for concern is being kept private between your former colleague and management. – user34587 Jun 1 '17 at 12:54
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    @Erik Yes he does – Kerambit Jun 1 '17 at 14:44

Playing Devil's Advocate for a minute there may well be more to the story than you are aware of. It is not uncommon for management to keep ongoing performance/disciplinary issues as a private matter between the company and the employee. Alternatively are you sure you're fully aware of the severity and impact of his mistake? Many organisations will have policies and contracts with provision to skip things like warnings if the offence is serious enough.

Also it's not unheard of (although it is pretty sh*tty) for there to be a situation where a manager has been told to make headcount reductions and in those cases mistakes provide an easy get-out-of-jail-free card to do so. That's complete speculation however.

That said there is no reason not to at least have a conversation with your boss about it (once he has cooled off obviously), and when you do so I'd suggest keeping the focus on impact to the company/project. If the terminated employee really is as valuable as you say in your comment then you should be able to put together a solid business case for re-employing him. If you can't then you are probably on to a loser I'm afraid :(

When you talk to your boss I'd do so in private (that way if there are other disciplinary issues or wider business reasons he might feel more comfortable to talk to you then he would in front of others) and you might want to try an approach like this:

Hi [boss], I know you had to let [Mr X] go, I know [mistake] was really bad and I appreciate that I might not know the full story but he's a good worker and losing him may/will impact on our deadlines for the [Widget] project and depending on how long it takes us to recruit and train a replacement I'm worried about it affecting [Widget2] project as well. Is there any way we could bring him back?

That way you are keeping it rational, unemotional and focused on the business priorities - which should be exactly what you boss is focusing on as well.

But first off before you do anything to try and change your boss's mind you need to speak to the ex-employee and sound out whether he would want to come back. It's quite feasible that he wouldn't and there is no sense in sticking your neck out if he doesn't want to return!

  • Well I would expect that some ones team lead to be in the loop even if it was immediate dismissal for gross misconduct eg punching the CEO out. – Neuromancer Jun 1 '17 at 19:09
  • Abusing the system to avoid redundancy payments is risky as employer could get sued even more so if your a protected class BME, Female etc – Neuromancer Jun 1 '17 at 19:11
  • @Neuromancer re: Team lead being in the loop I'd agree with you that it's something I'd expect to be the case but I've seen enough exceptions to that over the years that I wouldn't rely on it being the case. – motosubatsu Jun 2 '17 at 8:56
  • @Neuromancer re: dodging of redundancy payments - yep risky as hell and if it goes sideways can result in much bigger problems. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen though unfortunately – motosubatsu Jun 2 '17 at 8:58

I would give your boss some time to cool down, and then approach him and give him the reasons you stated for wanting the employee back. You could lay out all of the reasons why you being understaffed will cause problems for the company. Since we don't know what the employee did in the first place, it's hard to say if your efforts will succeed.

It could be that your boss is insecure and attempting to make an effect by firing someone so quickly as in "don't mess with me, or you'll be gone too". If this is the case, you also will have a hard time convincing them.

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