You Fire Them; They Fire Back

People who get fired, says career consultant Marilyn Moats Kennedy, often fall into one of three personality types.

The moment of truth has arrived: you’ve got to fire the inept guy in marketing. You’re a nervous wreck. But you can’t be, because he wants his job. And to keep it, he’ll fight harder than he’s ever worked.


People who get fired, says Wilmette, Illinois-based Career Strategies consultant Marilyn Moats Kennedy, often fall into one of three personality types. Having coached at companies that include AT&T and Allstate Insurance Co., she’s learned that understanding which group your guy occupies increases the odds that he won’t worm his way back into his underused cubicle.

The Guilt Tripper

Never owns up to his own mistakes — it’s always someone else’s fault. Frequently bemoans his personal life: his divorce, his sick mother, his dead cat.

Firing M.O.: He’ll argue that you don’t like him and you’ve never given him a chance. But the time for debating his performance has passed. It will take several moments for the fact that he’s fired to sink in. Repeat it slowly until it takes. Remember that you reached this decision objectively. Don’t second-guess yourself about enforcing it.

The Thrasher

High strung, intensely emotional. Blows up over minor slights. Sulks all morning because his train was 10 minutes late.

Firing M.O.: He’ll go ballistic. He might even become abusive. He’ll calm down only if you remain calm. Yell back at him and you embolden him — he’ll just try to bully you into understanding his side of things. If possible, avoid calling security (it embarrasses him, it embarrasses the company, it may open the door to a lawsuit). Just keep repeating this mantra to yourself: “If this guy argues me out of a firing, I’m through as a team leader.”

The Crier

Infuriatingly indecisive. An insecure cream puff, he takes the blame for other people’s inadequacies. He chokes up on St. Patrick’s Day, and he’s not even Irish.


Firing M.O.: He’ll whine, maybe even start to blubber. You must keep stolid and unflinching. The more sympathetic you are, the longer he’ll carry on. Detail the reasons for his dismissal; listen patiently as he beats himself up. Don’t console him, but help him leave with whatever dignity he can muster. This might mean fetching his coat and briefcase so that he can depart without having to walk past the entire staff puffy-eyed and emotionally wrecked. You don’t want his emotions to dampen the team’s morale.

Coordinates: Marilyn Moats Kennedy, .