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Yahoo! CEO Fired by Phone: Tacky or Just a Techie Thing?

Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz was fired by phone today.

Today, Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz, 60, announced via email that she was fired over the phone.

“To all,
I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s chairman of the board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.”
Sent from my iPad

Bartz was hired in 2009 to much fanfare by Yahoo! as she was touted as the cleanup woman, the one person who could turn Yahoo! profits around and make the company a viable contender with Google.

For the most part, Yahoo! a Web company that is a behemoth when it comes to its assets and online traffic, was a solid brand and Bartz, who served as president and CEO for 14 years at the computer software firm, Autodesk, made sense.

Bartz did not deliver, by most accounts, and the company’s stock price hasn’t budged much since she came on board. Worse for Bartz, the company’s stock price enjoyed a bit of a rally when it was announced that she was canned.

It’s Yahoo!’s prerogative to do what needs to be done in order to turn their company around.

Still, what does it say about a company that fires its top exec via phone?

Firing an employee is a stressful thing to do, and for years, bosses have found resources to remove themselves from that awkward equation. In simpler times, an old-school boss would call the soon-to-be-terminated employee to her office and hand him a box and his last paycheck. Shortly thereafter, a burly security guard would escort the worker to the exit.

Larger companies would hire an outside consulting firm to objectively determine which employees were pulling their weight, and which employees were nothing but dead weight. The consultant would produce a list of redundant workers and may even conduct the exit interviews with the pink-slipped employees, to discuss possible job leads and the change in benefits.

Over time, the termination process has become a sanitized, Friday afternoon event that is designed to be prompt, discreet, and impersonal with the underlying message: “Your transition out of the company is just business — we thank you for your service, and we want you to do well in your future endeavors.”

In this sense, it seems that Yahoo!’s termination procedure became so impersonal that it’s disrespectful. What do you think, is it tacky to fire an employee via phone or is this just a techie-habit that employees had better get used to?

1 Comment

  1. HNIC on September 7, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Maybe at that level, it is a tacky and gutless thing to do, but there ARE instances where such tactics SHOULD be employed.  Let’s face it, there are loose cannons out there and if one is aware of such a cannon in his or her employ, it may be prudent to allow the head to roll into a basket that’s far, far away from any and everybody in the company.  No company wants to be part of headlines that read “Fired Employee Kills…”