Editor’s Corner

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Almost five decades ago, I was a personnel guy for a St. Louis-based Fortune 500 company involved in consumer products and defense activities. I was the technical staffing manager for the defense side of the business. Life was simpler then. The whole personnel function consisted of me, my boss, and two secretaries – for all five of the plants working in the defense bailiwick.

We had a plant in Southern Illinois where manufacturing and assembly of explosive devices were done. Every couple of weeks, my boss received a list of from five to 20 people who needed to be fired, and since he was the boss and I wasn’t, guess who got the job of driving the 150 miles to be the hatchet man? Yep! It was me.

The plant sat on about 200 acres of ground with a security checkpoint about a mile from the actual plant. As soon as I showed up, the guards would get on the phone to spread the word that ‘the terminator’ was here. I wasn’t very popular.

I had my list and I had my job, so when an employee’s name was announced over the intercom to come to the office, the secret was out – and so were they. I can’t tell you how many threats I received, but that’s a whole other story.

What brought this to mind was a story in the November 2007 INC. magazine about consultants who can be hired to fire client personnel. This is not one of the alternative revenue sources I had considered when I wrote about other options for revenue enhancement. But why not? Nobody enjoys firing people, so why not outsource this nasty job?

About the Author

Paul Hawkinson is the editor of The Fordyce Letter, a publication for third-party recruiters that's part of ERE Media. He entered the personnel consulting industry in the late 1950's and began publishing for the industry in the 1970's. During his tenure as a practitioner, he personally billed over $5 million in both contingency and retainer assignments. He formed the Kimberly Organization and purchased The Fordyce Letter in 1980.