Instant gravy, instant noodles and summary dismissal!

Many line managers know that summary dismissal means ‘you’re fired’ – so all clear on the meaning of the word ‘dismissal’ then, but perhaps not so clear on the meaning of the word ‘summary’?

You could (if you are a line manager) be forgiven for thinking that ‘summary’ means ‘instant’ as we come across a lot of directors and line managers who think that. But, as I am sure I have said before, instant or summary dismissal is not the same as instant gravy and instant noodles as those typically take between 1 and 3 minutes to bring to fruition, whereas instant dismissal really should take no less than 2-3 weeks – if you want to do it right and not get hauled through a tribunal.

Just this week I read of the case of the railway station worker summarily dismissed as a result of his failure to use some de-icer correctly. Clearly another hapless casualty of the snow and ice.  In his summing up, the Judge said that the company had been hasty in its investigations which were as a result ‘woefully inadequate’. The company hadn’t checked out the steps the woman slipped on, it hadn’t spoken to the injured woman or her daughter and effectively icy corners were cut which rendered the investigation unreasonable and the summary dismissal coldly unfair as a result.

If you check out the thesaurus, some of the synonyms for ‘summary’ include:

  • Arbitrary
  • Boiled down
  • Breviloquent
  • Brief
  • Condensed
  • Cursory
  • Perfunctory
  • Laconic
  • Curt
  • Pithy

Read through these with brain engaged, it doesn’t take much of a genius to work out that if you do dismiss someone ‘summarily’ i.e. by not being massively thorough or lengthy in your investigations and management of it, most tribunals in the modern day, will find it either unfair or unreasonable.

So time to scrap the word ‘summary’ or ‘instant’ when referring to dismissals… go on… eradicate it once and for all from your office vocabulary and disciplinary procedures – and find some other word to use, something that is less likely to encourage your managers to cut corners and reach hasty conclusions.

And to prevent any future station employees up and down the UK from bringing tribunal claims, here are some of my suggestions to ease the pain when you do dismiss them…

  • With great regret, your train has just hit the buffers.
  • I am sorry to have to inform you that you have just reached the end of the line.
  • Unfortunately there is no more work for you as the proverbial wrong leaves have fallen overnight.
  • The Express to the NewJobLand is just leaving the station, here is your ticket.
  • I’m sorry, but on this occasion you may not pull the emergency handle.
  • Ooops sorry, I forgot to remind you to ‘Mind the Gap’.

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