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firing squabble

My boss just took me aside to tell me that a co-worker is being let go next week. If that’s not uncomfortable enough, my boss has asked me to fire her. Technically I am this woman’s superior, but I didn’t hire her, nor will I be engaged in hiring her replacement. (Not that there’s likely to be one—in fact, I imagine there will be some more layoffs around my office in the next couple months. I wonder if I’ll be asked to ax those poor bastards too?) I don’t want to be the heavy, but I don’t want to lose my job over this, either. What should I do?

—The Messenger

The Practical Cogitator says: Well, times certainly are tough now, aren’t they. First, I’d like to say that your boss is a coward. If the hiring is soley up to the boss then so should any firing. Sadly, if you are afraid of losing your job, then you will need to muster up and do the deed. Perhaps your boss cannot perform the layoff because he/she is feeling terribly about this situation. Or perhaps the poor performance leading to the layoff is really the fault of your boss, for not providing sufficient oversight. Or worse, perhaps the lack of sufficient oversight was your fault, resulting in this terrible task. Maybe, just maybe, you, your boss, and the ill-fated employee each need to look in the mirror.

On Second Thought says: Here’s an idea: revolt. Don’t fire the employee, coach him/her into better performance. It sounds like you are in a position of leadership, so lead. If your boss really wants the employee fired, then he/she will do it themselves. Or, perhaps the employee will heed your coaching and reach his/her full potential. That could be a winner!

The Insider says: What floor do you work on in City Hall?

The Straight Skinny: This happened to me once, more or less. My boss asked me to fire three people because their performance was poor and money was tight. I told her that I wouldn’t do it, that it wasn’t my job. Finally, I added that I wasn’t paid well enough to fire people.

Fortunately, my boss liked me and there were no repercussions. Instead, she asked my colleague to be the hatchet man instead—and offered him a nice raise to do it.

The moral of the story: This woman is going to get laid off one way or another. If it’s not in your job description to share the news with her, maybe you ought to consider taking on that responsibility—so long as you’re compensated. I started by refusing my boss outright. In retrospect, I wish I’d started by asking what it was worth to her.

sexism & the workplace

Someone at work said something crazy sexist—I won’t even repeat it here. What should i do? If I complain, my coworkers will just think I’m a shrew.

—Offended in the Office

Dr. Sigmund Fraud says: I can’t really answer this question without knowing what the offensive remark was. But in response to the first question, do you know what Karl Marx said? He said, “Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.”

I always thought that was a pretty weird thing for a guy like Karl Marx to have said.

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