Expert Advice

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2004

Q. How do I tell an employee that he or she is fired without sounding like Donald Trump?

Richard Clare, director of continuing and professional education at Keiser College, advises: First and foremost, being fired should never come as a surprise to the employee. There should have been verbal and written warnings leading up to something that is hard on both the employee and employer.

When the time comes to terminate the employee, do it in a quiet, private place. Respect the privacy of the employee. Have another person in the room, HR if possible. Your human resource person is your expert to answer questions you may not know and to be a witness, in case the employee pursues legal recourse. Let the employee know that you and the other person are the only ones who know what is happening and it will remain private.

Early in the week is best. Being fired on Friday can really ruin the weekend, while being terminated on Monday gives the employee the opportunity to get out and start looking for another job. Get right to the point. Be honest. Don't say too much. No need for details, since they should have already been discussed. Let the employee talk, but maintain control. Don't argue or apologize. Tell them when to expect their last paycheck, any benefits and the name of a contact person. Stick out your hand to shake theirs, but don't be offended if they don't accept. Richard Clare can be reached at (941) 907-3900, or [email protected]

Q. Any novel ideas to liven up my company's employee recognition program?

John Kurzeja, senior vice president of Epicurean Life, which owns Morton's Market and Fred's, gets our prize for his company's successful ideas:

In the retail business, we promote a culture of exceptional customer service. Our GEM (Going the Extra Mile) Award is a fun celebration. Among the crazy, fun ideas we have come up with, we plan to hire a high school marching band to march into our market during the busiest part of the day. Then we'll gather all available employees in the center of the store and publicly announce the individual, presenting him with a huge oversize ribbon and proclaiming that day to be his day in the market. The band will then play For He's A Jolly Good Fellow, and march out. The plan is to catch customers and employees off guard so they don't know what's going on at first, adding to the excitement of the event. A holiday twist to the same theme involves a men's singing ensemble that will dress in Santa costumes. The most important concept for both ideas is to make the event memorable in the minds of all our employees and customers. The only problem becomes: How do you top the event next time?John Kurzeja can be reached at (941) 316-6807 or [email protected]

Q. Help! I'm terrified of public speaking, yet my job requires me to speak about our organization at civic meetings from time to time. What should I do?

Andrew Bean, Area 56 governor of Toastmasters International, speaks up:

The person with strong verbal communication ability has a clear advantage over tongue-tied colleagues-especially in a competitive job market. Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organization with 9,000 clubs in over 70 countries, has helped members improve their communication skills for almost 80 years. They offer 10 tips for overcoming nervousness and for successful public speaking.

In brief, they are: 1. Know the room, the place where you will speak. 2. Know the audience. Greet people, so they will be less "strange" to you. 3. Know your material; be comfortable with the information you will present. 4. Relax-ease tension by doing exercises. 5. Visualize yourself giving your speech, in a strong, clear and confident voice. 6. Realize that people want you to succeed. 7. Don't apologize; don't draw attention to any difficulties you have. 8. Concentrate on your message and your audience, not yourself. 9. Turn nervousness into energy and enthusiasm. 10. Gain experience, which builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. Toastmasters clubs provide the experience, encouragement, and skills you need.

For further information and a list of Toastmasters clubs, go to, or in Sarasota contact Andrew Bean at (941) 351-7909 or [email protected].

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