My supervisor instructed me to fire someone on my first day in the job
28 November, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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