It's Termination Time; Send in the Clown

A man in New Zealand, called into a meeting where he knew he would be getting fired, used an unusual tactic for the event....

A man in New Zealand, called into a meeting where he knew he would be getting fired, used an unusual tactic for the event. He hired a professional clown to sit in on the meeting with him. The clown's primary function during the termination meeting was to blow up balloon animals and mime crying while the man got fired. I bet HR never saw that one coming. To a fly on the wall, the scene had to be hysterical. The employee, who was a copywriter for an ad agency, received an email from his boss asking to meet to "discuss” his role. He was also advised to bring a “support person” to the meeting. He said he thought that “Joe the Clown” would be the best type of support he could have. They sure do things differently in New Zealand. Here in the U.S., we normally bring armed security to these types of meetings, and usually the clown is the one getting canned. It had to be an extraordinary sight. As the HR people droned on about policy and procedure, Joe the Clown was busy making balloon dogs and other animal creations. The mimed crying when the man was handed his termination paperwork was a nice touch, as well. According to the now-former employee, "It was rather noisy, him making balloon animals, so we had to tell him to be quiet from time to time." Imagine not even being able to hear the reasons you were being let go. This story further cements my basic impression of clowns making balloon animals. They are annoying, and the squeaking noise they make is like nails on a chalkboard. If this guy had really wanted to make an impactful story, he wouldn't have hired Joe the Clown. No, he would have brought in Pennywise the Dancing Clown, from Stephen King's story, “It.” Now THAT would have been the real headline. It is not often that HR gets terminated by a maniacal clown during the termination of a corporate fool. Or, for a slightly less intimidating effect, he could have brought this guy: via GIPHY In all seriousness, you have to wonder if the agency made a mistake. The now-former employee, who by the way is also a comedian, might not have been a good copywriter, but he clearly is a creative soul. This ad agency likely never produced any product that got the attention and coverage that the termination of one of their employees has received. The story has gone worldwide and made the agency famous, albeit not for reasons the agency would probably like. I seriously doubt there is an Addy Award for “Most Imaginative Termination Support Person.” The agency has to be thinking that maybe they took out the wrong clown. See also: 15 Keys to Mental Health Safety Net   Maybe there is a lesson for us here in the U.S. With the continual decline in socialization and increasing levels of workplace violence, conducting terminations that are safe today is a real concern. Just last week in Tallahassee, Fla., a man went on a rampage and stabbed five people at his workplace when he believed he was about to be fired. Perhaps employers could start hiring clowns to soften the message and help lighten the mood at these types of meetings. Of course, it might help if the clown is armed. It certainly could change the tone of the event. It would also completely change the meaning of the phrase, “It's time to fire John. Go ahead and send in the clown.”

Bob Wilson

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Bob Wilson

Bob Wilson is a founding partner, president and CEO of, based in Sarasota, Fla. He has presented at seminars and conferences on a variety of topics, related to both technology within the workers' compensation industry and bettering the workers' comp system through improved employee/employer relations and claims management techniques.


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