If we’re going by Hollywood movie standards getting fired involves a large, often bearded and cigar smoking man shouting “you’re fired!” and pointing to the door. The announcement also tends to happen about as quickly and suddenly as landing a jackpot at a casino, but with the exact opposite emotions attached. This may not exactly reflect reality, but in some parts of the world it isn’t that far off either.
In the United States this sort of thing is standard, but in many other parts of the world it is unheard of. In fact, it would be considered cruel and unnecessarily humiliating. The fact is that Hollywood movies reflect American culture, giving the impression that the whole world lets go of employees in similar fashion. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Take a look at how getting fired differs in various countries around the world.
In the United States the contract between employer and employee is referred to as an “at will” contract. When you sign on at the job, this contract is agreed to. It means that an employer can fire an employee at any time, for any reason, no questions asked. The only reason not allowed, of course, is discrimination.
The process normally involves an HR manager or boss calling the person in, explaining to them why they are being fired, after which they are told to pack their things and leave. A few days, or even hours are given for the fired individual to pack their belongings, and then they are gone for good. It’s quick, many would consider brutal, and comparisons to ripping off a band-aid are extremely relevant.
In Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and Sweden such interactions between boss and employee are in an entirely different realm.
Germany, on the other hand, has policies that lean far more towards employees. If someone is fired, they are allowed to hang around for weeks, or even months. The time is used to finish up any lingering projects, wrap up loose ends, and otherwise leave in a dignified manner. Smart folks will also use the time to look around for alternate employment.
Plus, the overall culture in Germany is one of developing personal relationships. Employers will often get to know those who work for them on a deeply personal level, meaning that quick terminations are not only against policy, but also downright rude and cruel. To put it in a nutshell, it is not uncommon for a boss to give a departing worker a firm handshake, or even hug, when they leave the premises for good.
Japan takes it all one-step further, despite what many tend to believe about Japanese culture. “Permanent employment” contracts are most commonly used in the country, which means that any person given a fulltime contract expects to stay at that company for most, if not all of their lives. Getting laid off almost never happens. Mass layoffs are considered taboo, and are mostly unheard of.
Beyond this already employee focused culture, Japan is one of few countries where retirement packages can even be rejected. This means that employees can keep returning to work if they choose, even when they no longer have an official role. This has given rise to every large company having a so-called “chasing-out room,” in which obsolete employees sit around and work on projects not related to the company itself.
In Hong Kong, most employment positions come with extremely generous layoff packages, discouraging companies from firing anyone. Upon being let go, employees are given months of severance pay, ultimately intended to be a period where the person seeks new employment, though, most treat it as an extended paid holiday.
Higher-ranking positions even have it written into their contracts that they will receive years of severance pay. Interestingly, this has resulted in cases where employees aim to get fired intentionally, looking to cash in on a package and take a few years off.
If you have to get fired, you’ll want to get fired in Sweden. The country is ranked as the most progressive in the world in terms of employment policies, with most major companies having private job security funds. If anyone is terminated, the company pays to have the newly unemployed person develop skills, receive essential financial report, and ultimately find a new job. Most fascinating of all is that the new job is often better than the one the person was fired from.
Reports are that 85% of those terminated in Sweden have a new job in under a year.
Then we have India. India may not be on the same level as Sweden, but an interesting shift has happened in the country in recent years. Getting fired was previously seen as a sign of failure and shame, with many struggling to find new jobs given the stigmatisation. But as the economy has grown, a new trend has surfaced. It is now more common than ever for skilled people to hop between jobs as they prefer, seeking the best possible opportunity without being ashamed.