Fired Via Tweet, Text And Voicemail: Loss Of Job, And Respect President Trump's firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over Twitter is not common practice, but some workers say dismissal sometimes comes with a healthy dose of unnecessary disrespect.
NPR logo

Fired Via Tweet, Text And Voicemail: Loss Of Job, And Respect

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/595534122/596745014" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Fired Via Tweet, Text And Voicemail: Loss Of Job, And Respect

Fired Via Tweet, Text And Voicemail: Loss Of Job, And Respect

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/595534122/596745014" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

This month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly found out he'd been fired via Twitter. Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was canned in similar fashion. And former FBI Director James Comey found out he'd lost his job when the news appeared on a TV screen. NPR's Yuki Noguchi has been wondering, how often does this kind of thing happen outside the White House?

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Autumn Weese thinks she was fired last month but isn't entirely sure. Weese told her boss at an Arkansas coffee shop she needed to cut back her hours as she pursued her master's degree.

AUTUMN WEESE: And the last email I got from her said that she like, quote, unquote, "totally understood the situation."

NOGUCHI: But then colleagues told her how sorry they were to hear she was leaving in two weeks. That's when Weese started suspecting she'd been fired.

WEESE: Everybody knew that I was done with the company before I did, which was upsetting. And also, they were all told that I quit by choice, not that I was fired. And so that was kind of awkward as well.

NOGUCHI: She says she emailed the owners and her boss, but no one responded. For weeks, she continued checking to see whether she was scheduled for a shift in case it was just a mistake instead of a big insult.

WEESE: I just want someone to, like, look me in the eye and tell me that I'm done.

NOGUCHI: Dan Ryan says there's no excuse for disrespecting people as you dismiss them.

DAN RYAN: Especially now, if you're leading an organization, you don't need any negatives out there about how you treat people. I mean, it's tough enough to find skilled people now.

NOGUCHI: Ryan is principal of an executive search and training firm in Nashville. He says a botched firing can destroy morale for existing staff as well as turn off prospective hires. Tracie Sponenberg agrees.

TRACIE SPONENBERG: There's every reason in the world not to fire someone on Twitter.

NOGUCHI: Sponenberg is an HR executive and expert with the Society for Human Resource Management. She says employers can open themselves up to claims of wrongful termination by not following proper process. But rumors travel quickly over text or chat systems like Slack. In her job, Sponenberg says sometimes workers find out they're getting fired before she gets to talk to them.

SPONENBERG: Generally, people end up knowing. In this day and age, nothing is private. Something's on Facebook or something's on Twitter or something Snapchatted the moment it happened. So often times, everyone knows before you get a chance to even talk about it.

NOGUCHI: Some blame social media for a decline in workplace civility, but veteran San Jose engineer Troy Speers says publicly humiliating terminations are nothing new. Decades ago, Spears worked at a firm that conducted layoffs over the company's PA speaker system.

TROY SPEERS: Joe Jones, please report to HR, Sam Smith - just one after the other until they had done 25, 30 names.

NOGUCHI: There'd be a pause, then the roll call would restart like a firing squad. This continued for days.

SPEERS: And all bridges are burned, and I'm history. And I'll never find a job with these guys again. You know, it was that wounding to your mentality.

NOGUCHI: Blasting pink slips over the loudspeaker is one thing. Bridget Garcia says having a boss avoid the conversation is just as awful. Garcia was working on a TV show over a decade ago when she was told she would get a promotion and that she should take a few weeks off while the show went on hiatus.

BRIDGET GARCIA: And I said, oh, that's great. I'll go visit my sister in Bermuda. My boss said, that should be so fun for you, and then you'll come back, and you'll even be making more money. So it's not a problem.

NOGUCHI: When Garcia returned, she found the entire office had already left for a shoot without her. Garcia called her boss.

GARCIA: And she said, oh, yeah, there's no job for you. How was your vacation? And that's how I found out I was fired. It felt like total betrayal because I felt I had been tricked into training my replacement, spending money that I would no longer have.

NOGUCHI: And, she says, she felt tricked into believing that the people she worked with respected her. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.