We've just launched plato for individuals

🔥

login


Google Sign inLinkedIn Sign in

Don't have an account? 

My supervisor instructed me to fire someone on my first day in the job

Underperformance
Firing
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Toxic atmospheres
Changing company

28 November, 2018

What would you do if on your first day of a job, your supervisor instructed you to fire someone in the company? Read on to hear Hal’s solution to this nightmare situation.

Problem

I had been working on a couple of different failed startups for a few years, and I decided to pivot and get a job as an engineering manager at a more stable company for a little while. On my first day, my VP came up to me and told me that I had to fire one of my two direct reports, without any explanation.

Actions taken

Ethically, I am not willing to take such a drastic action without sufficient evidence, so I negotiated with my boss. I was able to work out a plan with her that involved a timeboxed period where I would pursue three deliverables:

  • First, to collect evidence supporting the action my boss desired.
  • Second, to learn everything about this engineer's job so I and my team could continue serving his customers.
  • Third, to design a hiring plan for replacing him.

I also took it upon myself to meet one-on-one biweekly with the engineer to understand the situation from his point of view. As part of those conversations, I learned that he had been in his role for many years and was suffering from burnout. As he came to trust me, he confided to me about his deep unsatisfied passion for music.

A month later, he turned in his resignation. This avoided any litigation risk and saved the company a hefty severance package. Many years later, I hosted a reunion for folks from that era in the company. This engineer attended, and he gave me a copy of his latest CD.

Lessons learned

It's ok to push back if your supervisor asks you to do something that you know is wrong. Listen with an open mind, and some situations can be finessed better without conflict.


Related stories

From Corporate to Entrepreneur: A Personal Journey
28 August

Anoosh Mostowfipour, Founder at ReferralsLink, recalls his personal transition from his corporate job to becoming his own boss and launching ReferralsLink.

Changing company
Career Path
Anoosh Mostowfipour

Anoosh Mostowfipour

Founder at ReferralsLink

How to Deal With Employees Performing Below Expectations
13 August

Philip Camilleri, Co-Founder and former CTO at SmartAsset, and now CEO at Founderslist, discusses how he dealt with an employee who was not performing as expected and why delaying uncomfortable decisions won’t solve the problem.

Underperformance
Firing
Philip Camilleri

Philip Camilleri

Cofounder and CTO at Founderslist

Improving an Underperforming Team by Instilling in Them a Sense of Ownership
12 August

Melby Mathew, Engineering Manager at LinkedIn, discusses how he improved a team’s poor performance by instilling in them a sense of ownership and strengthening individual competencies.

Underperformance
Ownership
Melby Mathew

Melby Mathew

Engineering manager at LinkedIn

How Do You Handle an Underperforming Employee
28 July

Arun Krishnaswamy, Director of Data Science at Workday, explains how he defines underperformance and how that affects his handling of underperforming employees.

Underperformance
Managing Expectations
Arun Krishnaswamy

Arun Krishnaswamy

Director at Workday

How to Prevent a Single Point of Failure
28 July

Arun Krishnaswamy, Director of Data Science at Workday, elaborates on how he approached a single point of failure problem while sharing three key tips (or guardrails) on how to prevent it.

Different Skillsets
Legitimacy
Firing
Internal Communication
Ownership
Arun Krishnaswamy

Arun Krishnaswamy

Director at Workday

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.