Unless an employee or partner is leaving with a gold watch after 50 years of devoted service, parting with a colleague is almost always a fraught business. It can also be a very costly one too.
Therefore, before sacking someone, making them redundant or trying to drive them off via a pay freeze, it is always a good idea to think deeply, take advice and make life as easy as possible for all parties.
From bitter experience, the best advice of all is to be decisive. So often, accountants take on substandard staff, people unable to do the jobs for which they have been recruited or partners who do not fit in with a firm’s culture. Rather than admitting to a disastrous error of judgement, they then habitually stick their heads in the sand and hope that the problem will go away. It very rarely does.
Frequently, hopeless workers have made a career out of joining hapless firms, sticking around as long as possible while doing as little as they can get away with, awaiting at the very least an amount to which they are contractually entitled and frequently a great deal more.
The dream scenario, which is based on an actual situation but materially re-engineered to protect the identities of those involved, went as follows:
Many years ago, I interviewed a gorgeous blonde with a fantastic smile to take on the marketing role vacated by the useless person to whom we had just been obliged to pay £50,000 as a much-resented golden handshake for a year’s non-service.
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In her interview, the new recruit charmed me, talked a good game and, having left a job three months before (alarm bells should have rung), was immediately available.
She arrived and immediately proved to be adept at making coffee and smoking outside once an hour.
She apparently arranged lots of meetings with prospective clients but, after six months nothing beyond innumerable promises materialised.
Reluctantly, we asked her to leave, having effectively written off six months’ salary plus on costs. She then pointed out that one of my partners had made lewd remarks in an e-mail three months before and, lo and behold, the solicitor to whom we had given another couple of thousand pounds advised the firm to pay her £30,000 to go away.
While this may sound sexist, arrogant and outlandish, in your heart of hearts, you know that it is not too far from your own experiences and those of other professionals that you meet at the Dog and Duck.
I could give chapter and verse on half a dozen other examples that are all too similar.
In every one, had the employer taken a long hard look at the situation before signing off on recruitment or after a month or two of failure, they would have been just about certain that the eventual outcome would be a parting of the ways. in such situations, it is doing everyone a favour to accelerate the exit of someone who cannot do the job for which they have applied. The cost would then typically only be a relatively small amount of salary, one week’s notice and some heartache.
By being indecisive, you make the employee considerably richer if not necessarily particularly happy and give both the relevant head hunter plus your legal advisers a problem as they try to hide their glee at unexpected windfalls.