How many times have you heard the word “termination” and automatically you thought, someone got “fired”?
To most, termination without even giving the definition has a negative connotation, or simply put… it means to “fire” or be “fired”.
But, from the dictionary, termination means:
The act of ending.., The action of bringing something or coming to an end: 2 an ending or final point of something, in particular· the finale an ending or result of a specified kind : a good result and a happy termination.
While I was working on-site at one of my clients’ manufacturing plant, the press operator, was asked to complete a certain task for this issue they were trying to resolve. He apparently was angry about having been asked to perform this task because instead of saying ok or sharing any ideas or thoughts on a different way to handle the issue, he stormed off. Not just a quick, cool-off break or bathroom break, but over a month break. This was June 9, 2011 and he showed up to work just like that. Like nothing happened. Gotta love this kind of drama!
In the employee handbook, I wrote and included a “Three Day No-Call, No-Show” policy for my client. The policy indicates, “that if an employee does not call to explain his/her absence and/or does not show up to work for 3 consecutive days, the employee has voluntary resigned from his/her position and their employment has been terminated (ended).
Therefore, after the three days of no call no show, I sent the former press operator a letter explaining to him that my client has accepted his resignation.
Apparently, after he received my letter, we were able to confirm that an employee saw the former press operator on the premises. The employee was loyal and came to tell my client and I that the former plant operator, “threatened to sue my client, for wrongful termination.” My client and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
To my surprise, when I went to discuss this situation with the owner, my client’s supervisor, he said to my client and me, “he would have every right to sue us for terminating him.”
Again, my client and I looked at each other in disbelief and instead of shaking our heads, we both raised our eyebrows and said excuse me? As if to ask, are you serious? And he was. What do you think?
In my experience, most former employees typically threaten to sue, however No one “fired” the former press operator, what people don’t usually understand, is that people fire themselves.
For example, no one made him walk off of his job, no one told him not to return. No one made him act unprofessionally. He chose his own actions and unfortunately, his actions, such as these, do have consequences. So he may say he wants to sue you, but under what grounds?
Questions to consider in this type of situation…
- Would it be acceptable if every employee just walked off their job and could came back whenever they felt like it?
- What type of precedence does that give other employees?
- Do you have a policy to support this type of action?
- What happens to productivity?
- What happens to morale?
Recapping the Facts
The former press operator was simply asked to do his job. When he decided to walk off his job and not return, according to our policy, he voluntarily resigned. We followed policy. On my client’s payroll and personnel file paperwork, the check mark was placed next to the “voluntary termination” box.
All eyes are on you, When HR Situations Got You Boiling!
My client was furious with his supervisor and the situation, (but he did not walk off his job). Instead, he did the right thing, and understood that doing the right thing and sticking to policy, put him in the spot light. But the question will always be….. Why are all eyes on me as if I “fired” him, when in actuality he “fired” himself?
Because the details are not shared with others, only the end result is seen. And the result seen is someone’s “employment was terminated.”