By Mike Welsh
If you have ever been fired or terminated or punted or dismissed, it’s likely the initial shock momentarily muted the words used to convey the message that your services were “no longer required” or whatever limp wristed, lily-livered line the “executioner” employed.
In the wake of the recent mass sackings at Sydney radio station 2UE and 4BC, its sister station in Brisbane, I experienced some mildly traumatic, but mostly amusing flashbacks to being sacked from radio stations.
The person delivering the usually shattering news that you are being “let go” is advised to rehearse their lines in order not to give the wrong impression, but a positive result is not always easily achieved.
Even if they are an A-grade sociopath who derives pleasure from “flicking” staff, they must ensure the message is short, sharp and sensitive.
There is no easy way to tell someone that their livelihood and, likely, their identity is about to vanish. It is not a good idea to begin with “There is no easy way to say this.” Many still try.
Telecommunications giant Nokia reportedly once used the phrase “We are freeing you up to meet new challenges” when sacking a bunch of people.
Friday is the cruellest day of the week to give people their “marching orders”. Apparently it ruins the punted person’s weekend. Monday morning is the best option because the person can more easily move into job-seeking mode.
In my industry, they say you aren’t a genuine player unless you’ve “pink slipped” at least twice.
It was a Friday and I had just wrapped my breakfast slot, broadcast mostly to dairy farmers, and the manager of the small station which had employed me for 3 weeks before wanted to see me. He wasn’t happy. Earlier, a listener took affront to a tasteless joke I told and rang me to have whinge. I was a bit busy so I gave the caller, on air, a bogus home number for the manager who at the time was in the process of shaving. Apparently he nearly cut his throat.
“What you did this morning was totally reprehensible,” he told me. I instantly recognized “reprehensible” as probably not good, but had to look it up none the less.
Mr Manager (one of the scores of failed announcers who litter management roles in this industry) also was uninspired by the music I chose to play. Apparently it upset the output of the milking cows listening to the program. My fate was sealed. Ostracised by cattle and unemployed, but at least I left with an enhanced vocabulary.
For a mercifully brief period in the 80s, ABC radio middle management flirted with the wank management language of My door is always open/I hear what you are saying/I know where you’re coming from…and actually dehired people who had to be sacked/dumped/punted/let go.
A former colleague and friend (Veteran Radio Type) was once summoned to a meeting. It was Friday, just minutes after coming off air from his breakfast shift. This fellow was a green jacket-wearing past master at the hastily called Friday morning management meetings and was well primed for some action.
A failed announcer turned Bitter Middle Management type and the station GM sat strategically at either side of the boardroom table.
BMMT: “We are going to have to let you go.”
VRT: “Go? Go where?”
Without flinching and before the awkward silence that traditionally accompanies a fart in church fully abated, VRT followed up with “….and what should I expect at this place you are letting me go to? What should I pack?”
In the blink of an eye, any benefit of rehearsing “We are going to have to let you go” was sarcastically shattered by a smug VRT slamming BMMT profoundly on the back foot.
Donald Trump’s savage and surgically delivered catchphrase ‘YOU’RE FIRED” on “The Apprentice” is the most practical approach. Ripping off a band aid quickly.
In the mid-90s, I was called to a meeting just minutes after coming off air. Another of those ominous Friday morning meetings.
A scrum of five grim-faced, grey-suited men filled one side of the room. Four sycophants stood silently around one man who was sitting. The seated one delivered the news that I had been anticipating for weeks.
It was 20 years ago, but I’ve yet to hear such an original, yet massively weak, mealy-mouthed management method of sacking someone.
Seated Management Type: “Mike, good news, we have a new and exciting format starting on Monday and we’ve thrown a lot of cards in the air. Unfortunately, when they came down your name wasn’t on any of them.”
I was offered some pathetic “casual employment” options, but I belligerently demanded “Just give me the cheque.”
A simple “You’re fired!” would have done.