Donald Trump made this phrase, “You’re Fired!” popular on his reality TV show The Apprentice. The phrase gets trotted out often these days, from police officers that shoot young black men, to corrupt bankers aka Wells Fargo. (More)

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“You’re fired” seems like justice and the idea that right can prevail over might. It is not so simple. As an HR executive who has fired people for cause (no problem) and for strategic realignments, I think wishing that someone could just “be fired” is way too glib.

In the world of reference checking, safely the last company can confirm dates of employment and title. To do any more risks beng sued for preventing the terminated employee from finding another job. Not every next employer takes the time to contact previous employers or references. Even if they do, accurate information is well nigh impossible to get. I used to get good info by saying, “Person X has applied to our company and we are thinking of hiring him or her. We have an active employee development program. What would you suggest the Person X might most benefit from in terms of development?”

Sometimes the most amazing candor flowed forth freely. Other times the person on the phone said, “Nice try. I will confirm dates of employment and title.”

Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer who shot Tamir Rice was fired for lying on his application, not for killing Tamir. What do you think the odds are that Officer Loehmann with be hired at some other police force someday?

I understand the wish to fire someone. I think that solves a short term problem. If people were truly in the wrong job, maybe we’ve done them a favor by setting them free (with outplacement counseling) to find a job more suited to their talents and interests. If people were part of a large layoff due to outsourcing, what do we say? Tough luck for you. You can’t compete with cheap labor overseas? When Wall Street bankers crashed the economy in 2008, did we say “You’re fired?” Nope. We let them get their bonuses and carry on.

The whole, “Fire them” chant sounds a lot like “Lock her up.” It comes from a place of frustration and mob psychology. If employment laws mean anything we should have reasons and documentation and a process.

That said, I’d fire Trump tomorrow if it was up to me. I have enough data. If we sold lottery tickets for the right to deliver the line to Trump, “You’re fired” we could make a dent in the national debt.


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