the schmooze
*"Shreklekh" is the Yiddish word for terrible or frightening
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

There's a Yiddish proverb:  He who has the ax, gives the whacks.  ("Ver es hot di hak, git dem k'nak.

There are so many terms in the English language for termination:  dismissed, sacked, released, discharged, canned, axed, given walking papers, let go, relieved of duty, boned, or being given a pink slip.

When firing someone, some people say, "Maches shnel!" (Do it fast!)  Get it over with!

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the movie, "Up in the Air," starring George Clooney.  Since I'm in south Florida, "der kino" (the movie theatre) was completely filled with seniors.

Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a "freylech" (happy) unencumbered executive whose job is to jet around the United States giving the boot to middle management employees. (Their bosses are too cowardly to do the work "zikh" (themselves).  Some reviewers have said that "Ryan has a skill for crushing people's careers with a minimum of emotional fuss.

Ryan floats from city to city more than "dray hundert" (300) days a year.  He's happiest when he's racking up frequent flier miles.  What makes him "matsliakhdik" (successful)?  The number of Gold Club cards he has in his wallet!  Ryan is "neet khasene gehat" (single/unmarried).

Who is he firing?  "Nebekh" (poor/unfortunate), sad folk, tied down with families they can't support, houses with mortgages...people who have done nothing wrong!  (They didn't steal; they didn't take excessive sick days.  They weren't consistently late. They were simply casualties of today's economic downturn.)

According to Mike Masnick, "In the last few years, there have been a bunch of stories usually out of the UK, of companies firing people via text message."  It seems that Radio Shack decided to fire 400 people via e-mail.  The company defended its decision by saying that employees had been told they would be notified electronically, so they didn't see what all "der tateram" (fuss/commotion) is about.  Another company, according to Masnick, fired electronically because it was just a part of the youth culture ("kultur").

As far as I'm concerned, Clooney has the job from hell!  Now along comes Natalie (Anna Kendrick), an aggressive ("shtarker charakter"), who convinced management that it's most "kost" (cost) effective to fire people via teleconferencing rather than in person.  'Kumt aher" (come here), look at the "groys" (large) screen, grab your packet, and you're gone!

Firing by e-mail or teleconferencing is inhumane.  Anyone losing their job, no matter how deserving, should be shown "der derekh-erets" (the respect) and basic decency of it being done in person.

Gregorio Billikopf (University of California, "Firing with Dignity") wrote that "Employee termination has been referred to as workplace death penalty.  Perhaps a better analogy is that of workplace divorce.  LIke in divorce, the parties involved can choose to be combative or cordial.

Billikopf continues, "The first time he fired someone, one manager explained, it took him two hours and the process was excruciatingly painful for both himself and the affected employee.  Over time, he got 'so good' at firing employees that somewhere between the time they entered his office and walked across to take a chair, they were fired.  "We brought you in to discuss some difficult matters.  We know you are not happy here, that you are not happy with your performance...We are not happy with it either, and feel you can do better elsewhere.  So today we are going to part company and we are going to wish you good luck.  Here is a severance check and a letter of recommendation we want you to have, along with what we owe you. We want you to take the rest of the day off on us, and here are twenty bucks so you can treat yourself to a nice lunch."  What goes around comes around, and this same manager reports that when it was his time to be fired he found "the box" on his desk. Everyone knew the dreaded box was given to dismissed employees to fill it with their personal belongings.  This manager did not have the courtesy of facing his supervisor, he received a phone call seconds after entering his office:  "See that box on your desk?  Get your belongings, report to payroll...We'll give you a ride home.

Billikopf reminds us that "Persons who suffer job loss may go through some predictable emotional stages that may include lowered self-esteem, despair, shame, anger, and feelings of rejection. The greater the positive feelings the employeee held toward the supervisor, farm enterprise or job itself; and the longer the period of employment within the operation, the more poignant these feelings may be felt now.

In the movie, "Up in the Air," one female who was terminated, subsequently committed suicide.  Natalie did not understand the Yiddish expression, "Di greste narishkayt fun a nar iz az er meynt az er iz klug."  (The greatest folly of the fool is when he thinks he is smart.)


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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