‘Nice To Meet You, You’re Fired’
CHICAGO (AP) _ You know it’s going to be a bad day at work if George Scharm is waiting for you when you get in.
Scharm is the private eye companies in the Chicago area hire to fire people.
He has terminated everyone from slackers and embezzlers to a scary, Mr. T-like character who went off the deep end and threatened the boss.
For $65 an hour, he delivers the bad news and then is, literally, the last guy the unfortunate employee sees at the office.
``I try to be nice about it. But I keep it simple,″ he says. ``I say, `You can either resign or be fired.′ And then I escort them out the door.″
For the same fee, he also will also collect the goods needed to do the firing. Once, he fired a factory supervisor whom he caught punching in and then sneaking off to his cottage in Wisconsin three days a week.
A retired police officer from the Chicago suburb of Gurnee, Scharm turned in his uniform three years ago for a suit and tie. Since then, he figures he has fired about 25 people.
He represents part of a growing trend. Many bosses turn to professional help with firing in hopes of avoiding lawsuits from dismissed workers. Others are looking to lower the risks of retaliation in a world where ``going postal″ doesn’t have much to do with the mailroom anymore.
``Ignoring violence in the workplace is like not having a fire extinguisher. It’s just not good business,″ says Beth Lindamood, an analyst with Cincinnati-based Great American Insurance Co., which has seen an increase in violence-related claims in the workplace.
Often, calling in a consultant is also a way to avoid a task that makes even the surliest of bosses squirm. That’s what consultant Terry Ebert found when one company asked him to step in.
The boss ``was just very upset,″ says Ebert, managing director of the New York-based Ayers Group. ``He was a friend of the manager he was about to fire.″
But most firing consultants do simply that _ consult _ and agree that what Scharm does is pretty unusual.
``A private eye who fires people? That’s pretty cold-hearted,″ says Mike Colo, vice president of National Human Resource Committee, a consulting firm in Farmington Hills, Mich. Colo, a black belt in karate, advises clients on how to fire people and sometimes does it himself.
``Oh, how wimpy,″ says Damian Birkel, a product marketing manager at Sara Lee in Winston-Salem, N.C., who has been fired twice and who also wrote the book ``Career Bounce Back!″ ``It’s demeaning enough to lose your job. It’s even worse when you have a second party telling you.″
Scharm won’t identify any of his clients, because ``they don’t exactly want to publicize that someone’s embezzling from the company or threatening the boss.″
Birkel has heard plenty of firing horror stories, including the one about a group of North Carolina workers who found out they were laid off when their keycards didn’t work.
``If the door unlocked, you knew you had a job. If it didn’t, then the security guard sent you in the direction of career counselor,″ Birkel says.
Bill Powell, who filled a number of jobs for Delta Airlines at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, got the news that he and some co-workers were laid off in 1993 from bosses he had never met.
``It just felt as though you became a number,″ he says. ``It was like, `See you later and thanks for coming out.‴
For his part, Scharm says he takes no pleasure in doing the dirty work.
``It’s not like, `Oh man, I get to fire someone today,‴ he says. ``It’s the hardest thing because you’re actually changing someone’s life.″