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Bullies Threats Terminations Know It All's Atmosphere Nastiness

Our general manager is quick to tell the managers that we can be terminated at any time because we are at-will employees. If he is unhappy with one of our employees, he will say something like, "You should fire him. He's at-will. You can fire whoever you want." Is he right?

Although your general manager is all fired-up about at-will employment, he is operating with an incomplete understanding of this concept as well as with the larger concept of management. Running around and telling managers they can fire whoever they want is technically incorrect and sends a terrible message.

There are exceptions to the policy of at-will termination. For example, employees cannot be terminated if doing so is in conflict with various statues and court decisions. The laws regarding equal employment and disability play a role here, and an employee cannot be terminated if it would violate an implied contract between the employee and the employer.

Prior to terminating an employee, it makes more sense to meet with him or her, review the facts of his or her performance, make sure the employee understands the consequences of continued substandard performance, document all such communication, and provide some follow-up coaching and guidance.

In terms of the bigger picture, when a general manager regards the employees as expendable pawns, most of the employees sense this attitude and react with a decreased sense of loyalty, commitment, and satisfaction, all of which undercut their productivity. In light of these issues regarding your general manager's competence, the obvious question is whether he is an at-will employee.

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