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Christmas is a time to hold off from terminating

For all but the most heartless of employers, during the two weeks before Christmas the white flag is raised and a moratorium imposed on terminations. Regardless of the circumstances that led to the termination, no boss wants to look in the mirror and see Ebenezer Scrooge looking back.
 
The exception, of course, are those situations in which an employee manages to do something outrageous enough that a delay in the termination cannot be brooked. So please don’t let my promises of a moratorium unleash your inhibitions at the company Christmas party to an extent you will regret. Groping anyone but your partner will not be seen as just part of the holiday spirit. Now is not the time, although there never is a good one, to get caught padding your business expenses.
 
If you have already received warnings about your poor attendance, try to show up for work. Remember that the I.T. person can see the porn sites you are surfing and how long you spend on them.  Consider giving this hobby a break for a few weeks.
 
Hanging out at the mall shopping when you are supposed to be visiting clients is not considered acceptable Yuletide  behavior. Now may not be a good time to send out your resume to potential new employers using the Company e-mail system, especially if you accidentally copy it to the boss.
 
And don’t let the open bar entice you into such a state of profound honesty that you wake up the next morning to realize you finally told the boss what you think of her.
 
Most terminations, however, come from restructuring, economics or the employer’s dissatisfaction with an employee’s performance. These are the ones that management sees coming even if you don’t.
 
So what’s an ethical boss to do? Terminate at the beginning of December or after the holidays?
 
Nobody wants to ruin anyone’s Christmas but there are other factors to consider. At the end of the day, the employee may be glad that they knew long enough ahead of time not to blow every dime they had on Christmas presents and holiday fun.
 
True or not, most people seem to believe that December is a dead month as far job searching. The thinking is that everyone is too busy with other things to be hiring. That may be true to some extent but if you need a new buyer in your organization you need a new buyer and you are not going to put that off because of Christmas lunches.
 
If it’s true, however, that December is a no-hire month, it can still be said that the employee can use their time to polish up their resume and get primed for a January job search.
 
There is no right answer with respect to holiday season terminations. I have had employees complain to me that they can’t believe their employer let them go three weeks before Christmas. I often ask if they would have rather found out after they had done all their Christmas shopping.
 
For those employers silly enough not to respect the unofficial moratorium in the next two weeks, I have a warning. If the termination should ever end up in front of a judge and she is deciding how much notice your employee deserved, it is going to be at the upper end of the range.
 
I once saw a situation in which a whole group of employees found a very special letter in the mail on Christmas Eve.  Rather than a cheery greeting card, it was a letter telling them that their job had been eliminated and that they were now officially unemployed. While the employer claimed that the letters were sent out as a result of clerical error and apologized profusely, they also made sure that they negotiated severance packages so that they never had to stand in front of a judge and explain their actions.
Judges are people too and these things make a difference. A judge might not mention it in their decision and you will never know for sure that it increased the notice period awarded, but it will. Take a few weeks off the termination dance and enjoy the season.
 
As published in the Hamilton Spectator, December 14, 2009
 
Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809
ecanning@rossmcbride.com