You're fired!

Last updated 14:24 14/02/2014

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Better Business

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When Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed her model depicting the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - her research focused only on those with a terminal illness.

Since then, her model has been found to apply to any major loss that people experience such as the loss of a house in a bankruptcy, the loss of a car in a robbery, and even the loss of a job.

But when it comes to losing your job, there is perhaps one more step that needs to be added to the Kübler-Ross model: frustration.

There are generally two ways you can lose your job. You can be laid off (in a restructure, for example) or you can be sacked (for inappropriate behaviour or poor performance).

There's an unmistakable stigma attached to the latter, a stigma that seems to last longer than is perhaps necessary. Or fair. 

Being fired automatically implies you've done something wrong - you failed to meet targets, ripped the company off, harassed a colleague - that kind of thing.

There's little acknowledgement that sometimes people are fired for other reasons that have little to do with the person whose employment has been terminated such as personality clashes, poor leadership, or retaliation for whistle blowing.

The reason for the sacking often matters less than the simple reality the employee was sacked. And while that stain lingers on an employee's job history, the chances of being rehired significantly drop. Very quickly, the stain turns into a scar, one that's increasingly difficult to hide.

One option is to keep the sacking a secret by leaving it off the résumé, extending the duration of your previous employment, and desperately hoping no one finds out.

Or you can try the honest route and hope the recruiter will care to listen without premature bias as you explain why you were fired, what you've learned, and how you've changed for the better. Neither option is risk free.

Some of the most successful and recognisable people have been sacked - and forgiven. Walt Disney was once fired for not being creative enough, while Anna Wintour, conversely, was fired for being too creative.

Both recovered stunningly in no small part due to leaders who were willing to look past the fact they'd been sacked. Add to the list people like Oprah, JK Rowling and Donald Trump. It's lamentable that employees away from showbiz aren't as fortunate. 

From a business perspective, it's easy to see why employers are reluctant to hire those who've been fired.

It's just not worth the risk, especially if there's someone equally (or nearly) as good waiting in line. The chances of that being the case are higher now than in years gone by when talent shortages were a bigger concern.

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These days, with a rising unemployment rate, employers can treat themselves to a more-lavish menu of quality candidates.

So what are companies missing out on by being so dismissive of the dismissed? Well, not that much, really.

The traits commonly found in employees who recover successfully from a sacking, such as resilience and determination, can also be found in many other candidates who managed to avoid getting the chop. 

The issue is less about a business imperative and more about a compassionate one where people are given a second chance. The alternative is that those who stuffed up in the past end up encountering an unforgiving marketplace in which it's impossible to be rehired again.

If that were to become widespread, surely it would lead to higher levels of crime, chronic unemployment and social security pressures, none of which would be good for business. In an ironic twist, the Kübler-Ross model would end up applying to entrepreneurs and business owners.

- Sydney Morning Herald


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