I am a Superintendent in a unionized maintenance shop. I’ve terminated many employees over the years. Most deserved it as they had violated rules over and over.
I recently terminated a man with three kids and a wife who was out of work. He had been with us nine years. He worked third shift. He was caught sleeping twice in a three month period. He was warned the first time and suspended for a day. The next time he was caught laying inside a bus, asleep with his shoes off.
I had to sit in the mediation and tell him and all in the room why this had to stick and he could not come back even on a last chance letter. I felt like if we give him a third chance, then we have to do that for everyone and most folks will think the first two times caught are free and they will sleep at will.
Anyway, the termination stuck and he has no chance of coming back. The Union will not take this one to arbitration.
The more I think about this guy and the situation he is now in the more it is killing me inside. I’m O.K. and still working and he is now in a very bad place in his life. He begged for his job back and cried. It almost killed me to stay firm but now. . . as it is all over I can’t sleep at night. I’m thinking of going to our EAP but will they tell others and will I get known as a bad manager.
I’ve never felt so bad. I even considered going to our G.M. and trying to have the case opened back up and bring the guy back on a last chance letter.
I’m so sorry. I really am. Terminating people is one of the most difficult tasks managers have to carry out. And it is a part of the responsibilities. At least, it should be.
When I was doing mass layoffs, it was easy for me to sit in my office and look at names on my monitor and do all the paperwork and dot i’s and cross t’s because I didn’t personally know these people. I didn’t know that Karen was a single parent and that Joe’s wife was sick. I didn’t know that Sue had just bought a big new house with a mortgage to match. My company was so large that I just didn’t know most of the people I dealt with.
You, on the other hand, know this guy. I bet you like him as well. Which makes it all the more painful to have to terminate someone. But, you did the right thing.
Now, people can point to this and say, “see managers and HR are heartless thugs! Get one toe out of line and that’s it! How come you didn’t talk to the man? He probably has x, y, or z and so he needs extra sleep. What about reasonable accommodations?”
Since we got those comments out of the way, I’ll respond. Sleeping on the job is not like making a minor error. Especially when he’s gone to the trouble to find a quiet spot to lay down and removed his shoes. I’m also willing to bet money that the two times he’s been caught are only two of many times he’s slept.
He got a warning the first time. He knew the consequences. He chose to do this again. If he had problem x, y, or z he should have brought it up with the boss in the first place. Most managers are nice people who want to help out their staff. But, we can’t help if we don’t know what is going on.
When it comes down to serious rule violations, you have to lay down a hard line. His co-workers know that he’s been sleeping on the job. They know he’s been fired for it. If you brought him back, there would be resentment amongst your other staff. Sure, they may say loudly that you were heartless for firing him, but they also don’t want to be working with someone who’s going to run off and take a nap.
I know you feel terribly guilty–because his life is so much worse off now. But, you have to remember that he chose this. If he had problems, he didn’t choose to go to his supervisor. He didn’t choose to go to his union. He didn’t choose to go to HR. He chose to to take off his shoes and take a nap. We all get to make choices, but we don’t all get to choose the consequences. He knew what the consequence would be (if he got caught, that is) and he chose to do it anyway.
I have sympathy for him. It’s not an easy situation to be in. But I would not, under any circumstances, hire him back.
I’m sorry you had to go through this. You made the right choice. The fact that his union wouldn’t advocate for him either indicates that they consider this a serious problem as well. I hope he finds a new job. It will make you sleep better at night.