Lebron James

The new rules of firing - and being fired

September 12, 2011: 12:36 PM ET

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz's ouster and her blunt email to the company's entire workforce raises questions about firing protocol in today's working world.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, contributor

Carol Bartz

Carol Bartz

FORTUNE -- Both the firing of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz over the phone, and her subsequent mass email sharing the ignominy, raise questions about appropriate workplace behavior in an era of global corporations and virtual workforces.

Did the Yahoo (YHOO) board treat Bartz badly by neglecting to terminate her in person or at least via video teleconference? Was Bartz rash and unprofessional by blasting the board in an email to the entire Yahoo workforce and subsequent media interviews? Can her career ever recover?

"She may be able to overcome what many of us would consider an inappropriate response," says Miriam Salpeter, a job search coach and Atlanta-based author of Social Networking for Career Success. "I don't think her reaction should inform anyone else's way to handle how they are managing their personal reputation and professional brand."

The situation highlights the changing rules of engagement in corporate America. Increasingly, employees from the entry level to the corner office are worrying about shaping their professional brand and how a sudden departure will affect their image, work relationships, and career prospects.

Where a previous generation of workers might have gone along with the thin subterfuge of a mutual parting of ways, today's sophisticated professionals would do well to carefully plan the messages they send in the wake of being fired, say career experts.

"In a high profile situation, it's important to put your own spin on it," says Salpeter. Don't air the company's dirty laundry in a public declaration that might cause people to question your judgment. Still, "talking to close contacts and sharing that information is not a bad idea."

In those conversations, she advises taking responsibility for anything on your part that might have led to your termination -- while putting it in the context of any unreasonable expectations or circumstances beyond your control. "People value and understand someone who takes responsibility," she says. More

  • What BP can learn from LeBron

    1. Don't over-communicate. Just because people want to know what you're up to doesn't mean you have to satisfy them. Keep them guessing. They won't go away in the meantime.

    2. Extend the time period when all you're doing is seriously analyzing the situation. It's a "process." Did anybody count the number of times LeBron used the phrase, "the process," or "this process," as in, "This process has been everything I MORE

    - Jul 9, 2010 10:36 AM ET
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