How to Fire Someone

Virtually every manager has to fire an employee at some point, and for many of them, it's a situation fraught with anxiety.  To make it easier, we have some pointers on how to fire an employee:

  1. Firing Should Never Come as a (Big) Surprise.  Many managers don't like conflict.  So, when it comes time to performance reviews, they might give glowing marks that aren't deserved.  Naturally, this makes it awkward when trying to fire someone who thought he was doing well.  Instead, you should document someone's shortcomings and give them improvement goals to achieve within a certain time frame prior to firing them.

  2. Do It Face to Face.  We can't believe we have to say this, but you should always fire someone in person if possible.  Online, there are plenty of tales of people who found out they were fired by text message, conference call, disabled email access, and deactivated key cards.  No, no, and no.

  3. Rehearse.  Before you fire someone, practice what you're going to say.  Then when the time comes, keep your comments short and to the point.  This is not the time to ramble.  Instead, explain that the employee failed to meet their performance goals, let them know their severance pay (if any), and after consulting with an attorney, tell them what you plan to say should someone call for a reference.

  4. Choose Your Timing Carefully.  Do your best not to humiliate the employee in question.  Ideally, you'll fire someone when less people are likely to be around—during the lunch hour or when most of their colleagues are in a meeting.  If your office allows it, you may want to let the employee leave for the day and come back at a designated time to grab the rest of their belongings.  

4 Pointers for Better Apologies

Have you been accused of giving lackluster apologies?  Alternatively, do you think you're pretty good at apologies but are looking for confirmation?  If so, then you need to read this.  Below we've listed some pointers to improve your apologies or to confirm what a great job you're already doing!

  1. Exhibit Empathy.  Sometimes it can be hard to imagine ourselves in another's shoes.  However, this skill is very useful when you need to apologize.  Try to see things from the wronged party's point of view before issuing your apology.  Doing so will make it much easier for you to offer up a genuine, heartfelt apology.

  2. Acknowledge your Wrongdoing.  Personal responsibility is key here.  All too often, people who are “apologizing” attempt to justify their behavior, blame the other party, make excuses, or minimize their bad behavior (“It's not a big deal!”).  Instead of doing those things, admit you erred and say “I'm sorry,” without trying to rationalize away the way you behaved.

  3. Make Amends.  Look for a way to right your wrongs.  For instance, if you bailed on a friend for your lunch date, offer to take them out for lunch later in the week.  If you failed to deliver an assignment at work, talk to your boss and ask how you can make it up to him.  By making an effort to repair the damage you've done, you're far more likely to have your apology accepted.

  4. Discuss How You'll Behave Differently in the Future.  You want to end your apology on a positive note by promising not to repeat your mistake.  Not only does this rebuild trust, but it can also strengthen your relationship.  The success of many long-term relationships often rests on people's ability to overcome conflict in a positive way—as you might imagine, great apologies are a step in the right direction.  

Bouncing Back from a Career Setback

So, you've suffered a career setback.  As uncomfortable as you may be feeling right now, one day you might look back and believe it was the best thing that ever happened to you.  To help you with that mindset, we have some tips for handling career setbacks:

  1. Think Positively.  Rather than adopting the mindset, “I'm doomed,” try to see your failure in a positive way.  If you look back on your life, you can probably think of at least 1 occasion where something didn't go the way you wanted it to, and ultimately, you were better off for your “failure.”  Perhaps you need only look back as far as your last romantic relationship for an example!  Believe that the same is just as true of your career—that the “setback” may be to your benefit—and that is far more likely to be the case.

  2. Learn from It.  Let's say you were turned down for a promotion you really wanted.  Are there takeaways that can help you further develop your skillset?  Perhaps your manager cited your lack of supervisor experience or said that you need additional training.  Rather than dismiss this feedback categorically because your emotions are running high, learn from it and take steps to address areas where there's room for improvement.

  3. Take Time for Yourself.  Unfortunately, we often skip self care when something in our lives goes wrong.  Yet, oftentimes, this can be exactly what we need to help distract us.  While you may decide to make career changes based on what you learned from your setback, remember to still tend to those things that strengthen your peace of mind, whether that means going to the gym, taking a long walk in nature, or just grabbing coffee with a friend.

  4. Get Support.  Speaking of grabbing coffee with a friend, your friends can be invaluable during a time like this.  However, there's an important caveat—choose the right friend to discuss this with.  Ideally, it will be a person who's supportive and a good listener, rather than that friend who likes to spout, “I told you so,” whenever something goes wrong.

Generate Buzz: 6 Tips for Making Content Go Viral

Why is it that some videos go viral while others don't get shared at all?  To answer that, we turn to the book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On.  In Contagious, marketing professor Jonah Berger identifies a framework, STEPPS, which explains why certain things gain immediate popularity.  Berger recommends that to create viral content, organizations use as many of the key ideas depicted in STEPPS as possible:

  1. Social Currency.  We care what our peers think. As such, we share things that make us look good.  For instance, Berger mentions how people like to feel like insiders and so information about discreet bars, secret dining clubs, etc. is more likely to be passed on to others.

  2. Triggers.  We typically don't plan our conversations in advance.  So, if you're trying to promote a product, it's helpful if it can be linked to a common trigger—something that people are reminded of frequently so that a conversation about your product occurs organically.  By way of example, Berger says that the Mars company experienced unexpected higher sales of its Mars candy bar when NASA Pathfinder landed on Mars.  Why?  Because people remembered Mars Bar based on something that was happening in their external environment.

  3. Emotion.  Content that generates strong emotion—even if that emotion is anger—is more likely to go viral.  This explains the plethora of animal videos and outraged petitions in your Facebook feed.

  4. Public.  Want content to cause people to take a specific action?  People are a lot more likely to take action if it's something they see others doing.  For instance, the Movember Foundation encourages men to grow a mustache during the month of November to raise funds for men's health.  This idea caught on rapidly, because it's something that takes place in public—people actually see more men walking around with mustaches which naturally, generates curiosity.

  5. Practical Value.  We like to help others.  If we have knowledge that will make someone's life easier, we're more likely to share it.  That's one reason you'll see so many how-to's and helpful hacks online.

  6. Stories.  While people may not remember the specific features of your product, they are likely to recall a memorable story about it.  If you can tell an interesting story about how someone used your product, people are more apt to pass the information along. 

SQL - Basic Queries

In the last article we started learning about some basic ways to write SQL queries.  We'll continue with that now and also start introducing more complex concepts.  We have already written simple queries with the where clause and the following are some other ways in which a condition can be specified:

select ID 
from teacher
where Paycheck >= 2000 and Paycheck <= 5000;
We can see that multiple conditions can be specified in a where clause using logical operators like and, or etc.  A simpler way of writing the previous query would be using the between operator:
select ID
from teacher
where Paycheck between 2000 and 5000;
Another useful feature which can be used when writing SQL queries is the existence of character array comparation operators, which are based on the standard lexicographic character order, just like in standard programming languages (for example, 'abcd' is less than 'b').  For comparing character arrays, the like operator is often used, and it enables comparing a part of the char array with certain parts of a pattern.  For specifying the pattern, symbols '%' and '_' are used.  The '%' symbol corresponds to any arrays of (zero or more) characters, and the '_' symbol corresponds to a single, arbitrary character.  So, let's use the like operator to obtain all names starting with 'Ma':
select Name
from person
where Name like 'Ma%';
The following query selects all subjects which have '1' as a third character in their subject code:
select *
from subject
where SubjectID like '_ _1%';


Sorting Query Results

For displaying the results of a query in a certain order, we use the order by clause.  For example:

select Name, City
from person
order by Name [desc];
The desc modifier is optional, and you use it if you want the data to be sorted in descending order.  The default order is ascending.


Set Operations

SQL supports set operations - union, intersect and except, which are executed in a similar way to the corresponding relational algebra operations.  All of the three operations are binary.  The operands are relations which have to be compatible, i.e. they have to have the same number of attribute, and the the corresponding attributes have to have the same domain. Unlike these operations in relational algebra, SQL set operation results can contain duplicates.  For example, to obtain a list of IDs of teachers who teach at the Computer Science department and/or the Electronics department, we can specify the following query:

(select TeacherID
from teaches
where Department = 'Computer Science')


(select TeacherID
from teaches
where Department = 'Electronics');
The other set operations work in the same way.