Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers farewell remarks in the State Department briefing room. (Shawn Thew/EPA-EFE)
Columnist

The world learned that President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by a tweet. In doing so, the president broke a cardinal break-up rule: When breaking up, do it in person. It’s the decent thing to do.

Although the White House is trying to spin just when Tillerson found out he was being let go, it’s clear his dumping didn’t come with a face-to-face, “You’re fired.”

“White House officials said that — as Tillerson traveled through Africa last week — White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly called to wake him up in the wee hours there Saturday to alert him that Trump had decided to replace him,” The Washington Post reported. “Trump had told his chief of staff he wanted to announce he was replacing Tillerson on Twitter. Kelly urged him to hold off.”

But the plot thickens.

“A top State Department spokesman offered a different version of events — and was swiftly fired for contradicting the White House,” The Post reported.

Turns out, Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, told the media that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had not spoken directly with Trump.” Goldstein said that Kelly told Tillerson only to expect a presidential tweet. At that point it wasn’t clear his fate was a firing. It appears Tillerson found out he was terminated when the rest of the world did.

I guess it’s easier for Trump to fire people on television than in person.

“The firing of a secretary of state on social media is both humiliating and without precedent,” wrote Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Miller was also a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations.

Read more: Longtime diplomat: Tillerson’s public firing makes my head explode

Surely employees deserve a decent exit.

“Firing an employee is a stressful process for all parties involved,” wrote Chris Bibey in a blog for SurePayroll.

And although it’s never pleasant, there are appropriate ways to let someone go and others that will make the situation that much worse. Regardless of your position, if you are responsible for firing an employee, there are things you should and should not do.

Trump violated pretty much all the ways you shouldn’t fire someone, according to a list compiled by Bibey.

Read more: The 5 Worst Ways to Fire Someone

Firing someone without a face-to-face meeting is the “coward’s way out,” Bibey wrote. “It is never enjoyable, but you owe it to the other party to meet in person to discuss the decision.”

Also read from Inc.: The Best and Worst Ways to Fire Someone

For most people, it’s hard enough losing your livelihood, so the least an employer can do — even when the termination is for cause — is be humane about the way the news is delivered.

Color of Money question of the week
What’s the worse way you’ve been fired? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Considering that I’m asking something very personal, this week you can respond by using just your first name and last initial. However, I still would like to know your city and state. In the subject line put, “You’re fired.” And, I’d like to also hear what you think about how Tillerson was fired.

Live chat today
What’s on your mind about your money? Please join me today at noon (ET). I’ll be available to answer your personal finance questions.

Here’s the link to join the conversation.

This credit card mistake that can cost you a lot of money

CreditCards.com released a survey that found nearly half of current or former credit cardholders say they have let someone else use their credit card, according to a new survey by CreditCards.com.

And it didn’t end well for these folks. Thirty-five percent of survey participants experienced negative consequences. People overspent on their card (19 percent), they weren’t repaid (14 percent) or their card was lost, stolen or never returned (10 percent).

Last week I asked: Have you been burned after lending your credit card to someone?

Jerry Warshaw of South Orange, N.J., wrote, “As a longtime user of American Express, I was offered a free ‘Gold Card,’ which I accepted in the name of my youngest daughter. After one year, I did not renew it. Fast forward, when she needed a co-signer to purchase a used car, her credit report indicated that she had an excellent credit history with American Express card since 15 years before she was born. I recommend this method to help your reliable kids get a step up on their credit report.”

“I haven’t been burned because I don’t lend my card, authorize a card, or co-sign for a credit card for anyone,” wrote Judy of Glen Ridge, N.J. “Starting out as a young attorney, I worked in the debt and bankruptcy unit of a law firm. I can’t tell you how many sad tales I heard of people who added a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or boyfriend onto their card and got stuck paying thousands of dollars in debt — to which they had no legal defense because they had authorized this person on their account. The distraught looks as they exclaimed “But they have a separate card, why do I have to pay the debt, I didn’t make it!” I then had to explain that when you put someone on your card (or co-sign for them to get their own card, or for a loan or some other debt), you are guaranteeing payment based on your own employment and credit history; which in turn means that if the person you authorized or co-signed for doesn’t pay, the creditor can legally seek to collect from you.”

Judy added, “The credit card company makes out like a fat rat at the expense of some poor friend, lover or family member who was either too trusting or just trying to do the right thing and give someone a leg up. What was worse is that the majority of the clients I saw with this problem tended to be women who were stable, but in no financial position to cough up thousands of dollars for goods and services purchased and enjoyed by someone else.”

Edie Lau of Poulsbo, Wash., wrote, “My teenage daughter piggybacks on our credit card and she’s been a responsible user.”

A. Monique from Washington, D.C., wrote, “I haven’t been burned after lending my credit card to someone, but I have been burned after lending my credit (co-signing a student loan). I know I shouldn’t have done it, but because I felt cornered and because they were immediate family, I just knew they would live up to the agreement of them making the payments on time every month, because they are family. And they wouldn’t do me like that. After about a year of on time payments, the payments either stopped or they were returned due to insufficient funds. Eighteen months later, that $12,000 student loan has been charged off and I’m stuck paying for it. My credit score took a huge hit and so has my wallet. I don’t have anyone else to blame but myself, and I regret agreeing to it all because I didn’t want to appear mean, selfish, or be viewed as the sister and daughter who won’t help when needed. Being viewed that way then would feel a whole better than how I feel now in paying off a $12,000 loan I didn’t benefit from.”

Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.

Stay informed about your money.

In addition to this newsletter, please read and share my weekly personal finance columns.

IRS says it has refunds worth $1.1 billion just waiting to be claimed

Should I rent or buy a home? That’s not the only question you should be asking.

Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict).

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.

Follow Michelle Singletary on Twitter @SingletaryM and Facebook