People who have never been fired know instinctively that it can’t be much fun.
Getting the axe over the phone is likely to be even more unpleasant.
Reminiscent of the universal ego-bust of being dumped in high school, the impersonality of a phone conversation to deliver such momentous news makes a low moment lower, adding to the very human feelings of being disrespected and diminished.
Who wouldn’t be angry and feel the need to shift blame and vindicate their self-worth?
The question, however, is what should you actually do to get through it?
It turns out that the range of options is significantly reduced if you are the CEO of a publicly traded company, indeed, if you are Carol Bartz.
Here’s why: Being a CEO of a company comes with the expectation that you are, and will continue to be, committed to the company’s and shareholders’ long term interests.
A CEO is the single most important and influential person in a company.
This is not to say that CEOs are solely responsible for an organization’s performance – that would be absurd since performance in large modern corporations emerges from many people and myriad internal and external forces. But, CEOs are ultimately accountable for an organization’s performance; they are typically the visible face to employees and shareholders, and compared to any other single individual within an organization, they have the most potential power to guide the organization on a strategic path. As such, CEOs are obligated to do everything they can to promote effective organizational performance both while they are CEO and even after they leave.
Some have said that Ms. Bartz was simply being an authentic and transparent leader when she wrote the now infamous email to Yahoo employees, just hours after getting the bad news from Board Chairman Bostock. In it she relayed that she had been “fired over the phone” and she wished employees well. But, if her true intent was to, as she later stated, “make sure that the employees don't believe that I've abandoned them” she wouldn’t have included the part about the phone.