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Dealing with Employees/terminated employee committed suicide

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Question
Hi, I am a 31 year old restaurant manager. I had a waiter with a good attitude who was just not very good at his job. He made many mistakes but would refuse to let me know so I could fix them. The management team discussed the situation and decided to give him one last chance to improve. I counseled him in mid December. On December 21st he made a major mistake and I made the decision to let him go at the end of the shift. I felt terrible about doing it so close to Christmas but was concerned abould what mistakes he would make in the mean time if I waited. I was going on vacation the next day and wanted to get it over with. He took it hard, and I wished I had waited until after Christmas. I found outon January 2nd through a former employee that the kid I fired killed himself on New Years Eve. I know there must have been many factors unrelated to losing a waiting job that led to his decision, but I am sure I didn't help matters. I never noticed any signs of depression from him, although in retrospect I should have. My personal guilt aside, I find myself having a hard time focusing at work and am skiddish a about disciplining my current staff. I always thought myself a sometimes strict but ultimately open and compassionate boss, but i guess I wasn't very compassionate after all. I don't know how to manage my staff if I am scared to fire anyone.

Answer
Hi Rachel,

Thanks for writing in. And I understand the immense amount of guilt you will undergo, which naturally impacts you in a long way. So let me be very clear about this:

It is NOT your fault.

Even if losing the job was the only reason. Even if your firing was NOT a good enough decision, it's not your fault.

How people respond to circumstances, situations, decisions - is completely their call and their responsibility. Sometimes the responses might be extremely sad. But it's their response. I am not judging whether his reaction is good or bad. Am just saying it's his choice, not yours.

You can introspect on your decision of course, but not because of the nature of his response. They are not related. You are responsible for your decision, not his reaction to it. You might feel sad at his response too - but you are still not to BLAME for it.

When somebody's reaction to our action is so huge, it is easy to relate the two and see them as one. Hence OUR response is to blame our-self. But they are not one, but 3 different things: your decision(to fire), his response, and YOUR response(guilt). It's we who relate all of them.

But I hope my words don't just 'convince' you, but actually help see that it is has got nothing to do with you.

What do you do in future when such situations arise? Nothing different or special. Just SEE this situation as it really is. And things will fall in place. There will be clarity. Try to associate them and base your future actions on them, and there will be guilt, hence fear, hence utter confusion. That self-imposed guilt and confusion might make you take bad decisions. Not this sad situation. Work on coming out of the PRESENT guilt and self-blame. The future will take care of itself.

Strength to you and my condolences to his family.

Regards
Vijayraj

Dealing with Employees

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Vijayraj Kamat

Expertise

I can help you in getting a different perspective on any workplace issue. Getting a neutral, balanced perspective helps when you yourself are too frustrated, stressed out or cynical to form a sound opinion of your own or to separate the issue from the person. I will give you an unbiased, practical, opinion supported by sound reasoning when it comes to: - Dealing with a difficult boss - Dealing with a difficult subordinate - Dealing with uncooperative/demotivated team members - Learning to project your work and not just completing it - Negotiating for timelines In short, any workplace related problem thats is not specific to a specific industry. I am your 'agony aunt' column for work place woes! :-) I CANNOT give solutions to precise 'technical' problems. There is a separate section for that! Go there!

Experience

I have been in the offshoring/consulting industry for about 9+ years. The intensely competitive business coupled with the extremely challenging environments makes my learning much more than the average level. Plus people management has been my interest since childhood and I have done plenty of it right since my school days. Have researched, experimented a lot in this area as well. And I always think knowledge that comes out of interest and experience is much more useful than a college degree.

Organizations
Deloitte Consulting

Education/Credentials
- Bachelor in Computer Engineering - Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA)

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