(Originally posted 06/05/2012; Updated 08/18/2021)
Few people want to be terminated from their employment, even when they hate their jobs. As employers, we know the personal crises termination can cause. Will the employee doubt his value in the workforce, or generally? Will she be able to pay her rent? Will they find more compatible work quickly?
Often, these concerns are what keep us from firing employees when it’s clear they aren’t good fits for the work we need done. Dale was no different.
She hired a family member to assist her growing online store, thinking it was a great opportunity while he was in school. She imagined showing him how to manage inventory, physically and financially. She tried to teach him how to select and market products, from photographing them to promoting them on social media, at trade shows, and more. He was often late for work, took long lunches, and asked to leave early, even when it was clear Dale was literally up to her eyeballs in work. When he was at work, he was often on his cell phone and making errors that added more work for Dale. Her customers were not happy, and her business’ reputation was bruised.
After a difficult yet thorough analysis, Dale terminated her family member. It was painful for her. He seemed indifferent.
When the unemployment insurance (UI) Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) sent Dale the usual request for details of the termination, she carefully provided the facts and evidence supporting them. The family member’s UI benefits claim was denied, and other family members angrily demanded Dale withdraw her response. Would that be the most empowering action she could take? Was that fair to everyone involved? We used the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process to build her skill in resolving this conflict and the inevitable ones like it that will arise from her business ownership.
First, we needed her to focus.
Define the Conflict
Dale and her family members disagreed about her role in the UI process. That was it. No matter how much her family members might have wanted the conflict to be about their entire history together, what triggered the angry calls and difficult interactions at family gatherings was the UI claim. There might have been other conflicts to resolve, but this was where she decided to assert herself.
Identify the Interests
When completing the UI form, Dale wanted to abide by the relevant laws and honor her obligations as an employer. It was not her intent to harm her family member, and she didn’t believe it was up to her to decide whether or not he got money to live on until he found a new job. She had paid him for all the hours he worked, plus several during which working was a generous term for what he was actually doing.
On the other hand, Dale’s family members wanted to know their unemployed loved one would still have sufficient income and support. His mom was afraid he’d move back home. His aunt saw an opportunity to attack Dale for succeeding and putting her own kids ahead of their cousins. I reminded Dale again that the current conflict was about the UI claim. She could address her sibling’s judgments another time, if she wished, or she could accept that there might always be judgment. Thus, it was her own that mattered most. As hurt as she was, she again focused on the unique facts and circumstances of the UI issues.
Play with the Possibilities
Dale’s creativity was evident in every aspect of her online store. It was relatively easy for her to imagine her ideal resolution scenario. If she could’ve had the conflict resolve perfectly, the UI Division would apply the law fairly and accurately. Also, her family members would accept and respect the UI decision as a legal determination based on facts and evidence–not something she created or caused. Further, her former employee-family member would find a higher paying job more compatible with his interests. This would calm the other family members as well, and holidays would be less uncomfortable.
Create the Future
In time, that’s exactly what happened. Dale honored her word and allowed her statement to stand in support of the UI decision. This protected her from perjury and penalties her family members weren’t considering. She gave her former employee tips on finding the work that inspired him. She remained loving and supportive, yet she stood up for herself, her business, and her word. He eventually found work in the industry he aspired to enter, and they are closer than ever.
Additionally, Dale explored why a challenge from her family created insecurity she hadn’t felt since early adulthood. She healed some old wounds and created new bonds. Others, she let be as they were. She accepted they might never change, but she continues to leave an opening for unconditional love in her family relationships. This has allowed her to be more objective when hiring employees, especially if she chooses to hire a family member again.
Stay on PARR
I still speak to Dale somewhat regularly. She has a solid history of hiring compatible employees and outside businesses to skillfully perform the duties that were not being completed by her family member. She is a more effective manager, supervisor, and entrepreneur than ever, and her former family member-employee has a vibrant career, despite the pandemic. He even admits that being denied UI benefits probably motivated him to look for work with more urgency, which put him in the right place at the right time.
Need to terminate a family member’s employment?
Nance L. Schick, Esq. is an employment attorney, mediator, and coach based in New York City. Her holistic approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a crime victim, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, plaintiff, and trial attorney. She is trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution by the EEOC, FINRA, and ICERM. She served for two years as ICERM’s Main Representative to the UN. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged by the SuperLawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Kauffman Foundation, Enterprising Women Magazine, Urban Rebound NY/Count Me In. She is frequently quoted in publications targeting employers, funeral directors, risk managers, and small business owners.