Firing At Will

On November 23, 2011, in Editorial Advisory Board, Heather Bussing, HRExaminer, by Heather Bussing

Heather Bussing is an employment attorney who writes a lot, teaches advanced legal writing and is the Editorial Advisory Board editor at HR Examiner. Full Bio »

Firing At Will

by Heather Bussing

Jay Shepherd is no ordinary employment lawyer. Sure, he has the license and lots of experience using it. But he’s really an entrepreneur who thinks like a designer.

Q: How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?

Shepherd believes light bulbs are useful, but never the complete fix.

You may know Jay Shepherd from his employment-law blog Gruntled Employees. I found him through a tweet by William Tincup quoting Shepherd’s response to the question: “Who owns an employee’s social media contacts?” Answer: “Shut Up.”

Shepherd is also the creator of the two-word social-media policy: Be Professional, and the two-word employment-policy manual: Respect Others.

His new book about termination of employment, Firing At Will, begins: “I love baseball.”

Shepherd is no ordinary employment lawyer.

When I finished the book last week, it dawned on me that if CEOs and VPs of HR followed Shepherd’s advice, employment lawyers will be obsolete.

It’s that good.

Here’s why. Shepherd puts business first. He cares about how the company works, what makes financial sense, and whether employees want to work there. “Disgruntled employees sue their employer. It’s better to have gruntled employees.”

While Shepherd understands the risks and costs of litigation, he also realizes that draconian policies, hot and cold running edicts and micromanagers increase, rather than decrease, the chance of getting sued.

Instead of trying to manage risk, he talks about how to manage people, including the managers.

But Firing At Will is not for the timid. Shepherd recommends that you throw out your policy manual, get rid of progressive discipline, and (gasp) treat people differently.

And when it’s time to fire someone, which is usually earlier than you think, Shepherd guides you through the questions to ask, what to say, and what paperwork to use. More importantly, he teaches how to handle a difficult, emotional situation both professionally and respectfully.

Firing At Will is a smart and common-sense approach “to the riskiest thing you can do at work with your clothes on.”

You can get the first chapter for free and order it here. Better yet, call your local bookstore.


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