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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Firing Employees on Second Life©-It's Not Personal, It's Business- Nomad Aries Reporting…


The firing of employees on Second Life© seems to be a law unto itself. There is no set protocol for firing an employee for incompetence or any other offense.
In the real world or at least where I live, there are set laws and procedures that must be adhered to before and during the process of firing an employee. Not so , in the virtual world. On Second Life©, the firing of an employee, the reasons for it and how it is done is strictly up to the owner or manager of a business. This is surprising to me to be honest. If you are going to run a business venture on SL or be part of an organization, you will inevitably have to fire someone at some point in time. 

I have seen people fired from positions for varied reasons, some obvious and some rather vague, so vague that it leaves everyone stumped as to why. As I have learned how you are dismissed from a position on SL and why, is totally up to your boss. For some positions, I have seen on applications, rules of conduct and a statement that outlines procedures and tasks and certain violations that will not be tolerated and will result in immediate dismissal. I have also witnessed specific individuals being fired for these violations but other individuals allowed to remain with the same business despite the exact same violations. Owners tend to take customer complaints more seriously over complaints from co-workers. The co-worker complaint is often resolved by the owner mediating between the two conflicted parties if possible.

When I asked business owners about firing employees the response was not what I expected at all.
Only one of the upper management personnel I spoke with fired anyone for incompetence. In most cases further training was required for the employee or schedules changed or information passed by the employer on note cards to help the employee overcome their failings. Most of the firings were based on; not showing up for work, not completing tasks as required, drama and discord in the workplace- the inability to get along with other people in a working environment and going against authority, mainly the owner or upper management. These tend to be the most frequent reasons for dismissal of employees on Second Life. Often the personal battles arise from personal relationships in the workplace that have not turned out too well. Firing a friend is the most difficult job an owner or manager has to perform.

There must be a correct way to fire an employee in a professional manner on Second Life. There are some brutal, almost cowardly ways to inform someone they are no longer working for you such as ; saying nothing when they log off, then when they log back on they find they are no longer part of the group and they have been stripped of their "tags" and been banned from the SIM. Often no reason is given and they are blocked so they can't ask. It is always a shocker . I have witnessed this action a few times and the reasons for this were unclear as most were not serious offences. An awful lot of firings have been done offline which is unprofessional behaviour to say the least. Firing someone is not an easy task and not too many people enjoy having to fire a fellow employee, as a matter of fact, it is the dreaded necessity of a managerial position. Firing is done because all other attempts at coaching an employee have failed . Face it, we are sometimes not meant for or not ready for certain types of work we attempt to do and we need to know we have chosen inappropriately, the boss knows it and really, so do we.

How do you fire an Employee on Second Life Professionally?

Some business owners and upper management have fired someone, but not in a professional manner. I have seen some terrible public firings that have left me shaking my head. If you are going to operate a business on SL, please take the time to have policies in place, clearly inform all employees of your policies and have an exit plan for employees set up so ,when the need arises (and it will), you have something to guide you through this process. Your exit plan should be logical and precise and be uniform for each and every employee. You may not wish some people to continue working for you, but they deserve to be treated with respect and told why you are firing them and treated with dignity throughout the entire process. You owe them that much.

When I asked business owners and managers about firing people, most were reticent to talk about it, so I went to my boss, Lanai Jarrico, who always tells it like it is. I asked Lanai, " Have you ever fired an employee on SL ?"
Lanai answered “Yes I have and it is not a pleasant feeling but something that needs to be done in order to protect the interest of the business you want to succeed in".

As a professional, you want and need your business to succeed and you hire people to help reach that goal. That is the purpose of hiring people. As Lanai pointed out, you need to protect your business to attain your goal, and an employee who is not working out, can hinder your business success. That is the reason for firing an employee.

Lanai went on to explain her realization that she would have to fire an employee saying,

"In the beginning of my media career as CEO of SLE it was difficult for me to let go of incompatible employees because I formed friendships with them and did not want to hurt their feelings or possibly damage the friendship. But I soon realized, if they are not there to help you, then maybe they really aren't friends and may have other motives and agendas. That is when you assess the arrangement and weigh your options. Be kind and explain your friendship means more and things aren't working out or not say anything and hope for the best outcome while not being true to your standards".

That is the choice. As a business manager, you must either stay true to your company standards and goals or hope the employee eventually improves their performance. What if the employee doesn't improve despite your efforts to support or train them? Unfortunately, it is time to sever your business relationship with this employee. How do you go about firing an employee?

Lanai took a professional approach when she had to fire employees saying ;" The best way to go about firing someone is keeping in mind once a bridge is burned, it might not be fixable. Be respectful and honest. The person you are firing may feel hurt and upset by your decision but you owe it to them to let them know why you have taken that action. You want to avoid firing them in front of other employees or in open chat. it is best to have them meet you in your office or some other private location and discreetly speak to them in IM. Firing someone in an offline IM is quite tacky and not very professional, so be sure to avoid that."

I asked Lanai, what violations caused her to fired employees and if there were consequences to the business as a result of having fired employees?
Lanai explained " I've only had to fire two people in my entire media career. One of them did not follow the tasks given to her. She was given two seperate warnings for that infraction before I finally felt as though I was being taken for granted as a fair boss. I let her know her services were no longer needed. She was upset and suprized and pleaded for her job with promises to do the original task she was given, by then it was too late. There were no adverse effects to the newspaper due to her firing and she went on to do other things. The other person was being disrespectful and not representing our organization in a positive way. I let that person know their behavior was not tolerated and their services were no longer needed. Any other employee we had, resigned on their own due to RL and other projects they were committed to. No bridges were burned there".

I have heard of some strange events in the aftermath of being fired on SL, the strangest one and the most amusing, I call the yo-yo effect. The yo-yo effect is firing a person then rehiring them days or weeks later, then firing them again and a maybe a month later hiring them again. There is one employer on Sl who does this continually, despite a no rehire policy. I wish I could explain it but I can't and I wish I knew why the fired employees keep going back, I don't know why. I would say though, this is an exception more than the rule.
  I asked Lanai if she had ever rehired anyone whom she had fired?
Lanai answered, "No, those two never came back for a job and I'm not sure they are even in Second Life anymore. If I had to fire a person then it means their chances have run out and I have thought long and hard about my decision. I don't just fire people that did not give me good enough reason to".

Obviously for Lanai, firing an employee is not taken lightly, as she stated she has thought long and hard about deciding to fire someone. I believe this is an important point for managers and owners to pay attention to. Think about your reasons for firing an employee, make sure your reasons are valid and once you have fired someone, let them go and be confident in your decision. This is not an action people enjoy, on both sides of the firing and they do not want to constantly relive the experience.

Lanai did mention a very important point I would like to share with you. A lot of the later problems that develop with employees could have been avoided at the time of hiring. As Lanai explained “I’ve learned that in order to build a strong foundation and maintain integrity, the hiring process needs to be more detailed with clarity of needs and tasks. Making sure employees understand what is being asked of them, this should close the gap of misunderstanding. It is also ok to build friendships with employees as long as everyone is clear on their roles. When these things are established, that is when you find harmony in business".

As I was researching this topic this same thought came to me . Why not simply present your available position accurately? Include the details of the position, the tasks involved, the hours expected to be worked and what the job entails in detail. Here is where you can state your company policies and expectations as well as your rules and codes of conduct. It would simpler to try to screen your applicants according to the needs of the position you are offering.
However unpleasant firing a person may be, what is clear to this writer is that a more uniform, professional process needs to be practiced in the virtual world of SL. Firing an employee is difficult, but it can be done in a professional, dignified way.

Remember -It's Not Personal- It's Business.


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