A recent public dismissal of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was surprising, not because of the widely acknowledged and growing differences between the White House agenda and his own, but because his termination was done by tweet. Short, to the point, and very, very public.
Are termination tweets going to become a standard method of letting executives go? Probably not. While millennial managers and CEOs do prefer digital communication over telephone and face-to-face meetings, sudden and public job loss is not likely to become best practice any time in the foreseeable future.
These exposed job losses often go viral precisely because they are so unusual. The social media maven who boasts of skipping work to go to a hockey game may receive a “You’re fired.” comment when she forgets she friended her boss, and the PR rep who accidentally sends a group text about annoying client behaviours to his client list (instead of his wife) should expect pithy termination texts by more than one client: All these Facebook firings and texted terminations are likely to provoke gasps and giggles as they are shared through social media hundreds of thousands of times. Apparently, U.S. Cabinet Members are now also at risk of being let go by public announcements before they’re told in person; your average executive is not.
Traditionally, and currently, best practices include reviews indicating what performance factors need to be addressed and improved, leading to modest consequences, escalating to final warnings, then a face-to-face meeting explaining the decision to let the employee go. What has changed in the last few years is a trend toward giving executives the option to resign instead of being let go, allowing the executive to save face and make a change in employment faster and easier for everyone. Firing anyone, especially at the executive level, is still done in person and in private.
So, what do YOU think of termination tweets and texts? They have become a hot topic around the water coolers of the world!