Can Firing/Separation/Termination Be Anything But...Awful?

By William Meehan III, Sheila Melvin
2019 | Case No. ETH17 | Length 5 pgs.

This roleplay case is designed for two students. It begins, with part one, on a Friday morning in the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Company. Ryan Lane, an associate, and Gary Pinkus, chairman of North America, are about to sit down for an important conversation regarding Ryan’s two-year review.

The process is familiar to both participants; like all McKinsey associates, Ryan has been reviewed every six months since she joined “the Firm.” Nonetheless, this two-year juncture is critical because this review is intended to look ahead, assessing Ryan’s readiness to transition to a management role. If Ryan is deemed ready and right for the job, she will be promoted to engagement manager; if not, she will be “counseled to leave” McKinsey.

Gary had managed Ryan’s previous three associate reviews, which had all been good — on track, if not distinctive. However, this time around Ryan was being evaluated as a future engagement manager rather than an associate — and that’s where the concern lay. It was not clear to the Committee, or Gary, that Ryan would successfully make the transition from associate to engagement manager. The Committee had therefore given Ryan a rating that indicated “issues.” Simply put, Ryan was in the penalty box and it was probably in her own best interest to leave McKinsey now and start a career that would better suit her ample talents.

Gary intends to tell Ryan this – and does – but Ryan resists and stays on, determined to do what it takes to become an engagement manager. Six months later, in part two of the case, Gary must sit down with Ryan again – and tell her that the Committee the Committee does not have confidence that Ryan can successfully make the transition to engagement manager. Ryan has to go.

Learning Objective

To understand the challenges of firing someone in a professional setting.

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