A nugget of Big Medicine for your consideration. #95 Test fire yourself.
We are big on drills, exercises and simulations in EMS. We thrive on scenario-crafting. We roll on simulated cardiac arrests to practice our code protocols. We set up improbable Road Traffic Crash scenes to test our ability to think outside the box. We role play our way through emotionally-charged domestic violence calls.
I’ve got a suggestion for your next full-dress exercise. Test fire yourself.
Run through your termination protocols to check if you dismiss with dignity or if it’s more a case of throwing your former employee beneath the wheels of the MCI bus. What’s your process for termination feel like in almost-real life?
I’ve severed organizational ties with a few paramedics in the course of my career in EMS. None of what I learned in the formal education process prepared me for those difficult moments when a permanent goodbye is forced upon one of our own.
The first time I had to fire a medic came after all four steps in our process designed to avoid termination if at all possible had already been well worn by this individual and the managers desperately trying to find a way to salvage his career. In the end, he came into my office knowing this would be the last time he would be in The EMS House as a paramedic.
According to protocol, he had already turned in his uniform, gear and ID card. He came in, sat down, and awaited the inevitable. I tried to be gentle however with the finality of his termination sinking in, he collapsed onto the floor and curled into a fetal position sobbing like a child. Only after several long minutes of me talking him down towards calmness, did he climb back into the chair. Eventually, he walked quickly out of the building and up the street without looking back. His car remained in the parking lot until sometime after dark when a member of his family came to retrieve it.
Do you go for shock, surprise and humiliation? How do you break the news? Do you provide any type of emotional support to catch people when they fall?
Do you allow people to say their goodbyes or do you escort them from the building as if they were a suddenly-dangerous felon? And what do you tell your other employees after a termination? Do you spin a corporate myth or do you issue a brief statement with the bare facts?
The next time I fired a medic the emotions were just as raw but the reactions were much more muted. We talked about her future plans, about university, and about her disappointment at not being able to continue with her dream of being a paramedic. I tried to explain this was only one stop along the journey, that there would be others and that I hoped the next stop would provide more in the way of opportunity and satisfaction. Of course, I realized as I heard the words leave my mouth that I was also trying to make myself feel better by painting the moment in colours not quite as bleak as the ones present in the room.
Do you have a termination package available with support resources listed, government forms for filing for unemployment insurance, and/or career counselling organizations? Or you wish folks well and tell them to get a move on lest the door smack their ass on the way out?
How are your firing manners? Nothing says devalued and disrespect better than refusing to stand up, make eye contact and shake someone’s hand when you’re wishing them all the best in future endeavours.
After Action Briefs are an essential part of improving the way our organizations function. Do you get together with your management team post-termination to discuss how the process went and how it could be improved or do you try and create as much distance between here and back there as possible?
It is one of the great mysteries for me that while we are quite adept at talking about being caring organizations, we focus so little of our energy on taking care of those, who right up until the moment they are fired, were valued members of the organization. Yes, it’s a tough part of the leadership role – however the manner in which you cut people from your team sets the tone for how your organization deals with those who stay.
Test fire yourself.
Thanks for your consideration.
Be well. Practice big medicine.