I wasn’t expecting to hear the receptionist on the other end of the line.
“Frank Healy is here to see you. I told him you might be busy, and that he may have to wait.”
Nancy was good that way. She didn’t make promises to people, especially when they dropped in without an appointment. Especially when they were an employee who was terminated three months ago.
Frank was probably the third or fourth termination I ever managed. His termination was for cause, he had trouble getting to work for his scheduled shifts. Frequently late, his team had worked around his absences enough. What was hard for me was I thought I had a great plan for him to get up to standard, and he started on it well. But, after all, it was my plan, not his.
I hung of the phone and wondered what he was possibly doing here. It’s important to understand this was a small town in 1982, we had no security team, and no reason to think that this was violence waiting to happen. Today we would have no receptionist as a fist line, and Frank would have been told to leave.
I walked to the lobby, just a little concerned about what Frank might want. I went through a mental checklist: Emptied his locker and sent him his stuff. Provided him all the needed 401(k) information. Submitted the hours and his vacation time for a final check.
I opened the lobby door, and there was Frank. Well-dressed, very neat. He stood up as soon as I entered.
Oh, he’s here to ask for his job back. Of course.
“Thanks for taking the time to see me. I just came by because I wanted to thank you.”
I was skeptical. Can’t say as I’ve ever heard that before from a terminated employee.
“After all the time you spent helping me try to understand the importance of the work schedule, all the time working with me to solve my problem, I think I finally got it. I have a new job and I can support my family, but I learned a valuable lesson from you. I thought I had let my family down, and I did, but it won’t happen again. Thank you.”
With that, Frank turned to the door and left. Just like that.
I’ve had too many termination discussion to count, unfortunately. No one has ever thanked me since. But my hundreds of successful hires outweigh that stat. And truthfully, I think of this as a success story, just not for my employer.
Have you ever had a termination that looked better after the fact?