Being terminated from employment is one of life’s greatest stressors. It’s right up there with death of a loved one and a terrible medical diagnosis.
Thankfully, I think most people in Leadership Positions understand that and make firing someone a last resort. Unfortunately some do not. But maybe they would if they stopped to think long enough about what firing someone actually means.
It means in every case a great failure on the part of a leader. There are two and only two reasons that someone is so underperforming in a job that they should be fired. The first reason is that they were hired for a job they weren’t qualified for or they didn’t “fit” with the organization. Either way, they should not have been hired in the first place. That is a failure of leadership.
The second reason is that they were not given the tools and training to do the job effectively. That is also a failure of leadership.
That means that if you find yourself needing to fire someone it’s on you, not on them. You can blame them all you want for their poor attitude or the lack of respect for the organization. You can call them stupid. You can call them lazy. You can say whatever you want.
But one fact remains…you or another leader in your organization hired them.
So now you’re likely to tell yourself that they weren’t stupid when you hired them. They didn’t have a poor attitude when they started. You rationalize that they were a better employee on their first day. They changed!
So what you’re saying is that you took a perfectly effective individual and put them in an environment where their attitude went to hell? You’re admitting that you took a bright, intelligent and engaged person and transformed them into an idiot?
Wow, that’s something to be proud of. Or maybe not so much.
I get that a large percentage of people embellish their qualifications when applying for a job. I understand that they are on their best behavior. I have been “fooled” during an interview process like every other person who hires people has.
I also understand that there will be times, for several reasons, when separation from the organization is the only path available.
But…if you are going to have the audacity to call yourself a leader then you had best be willing to stand up and admit your mistakes. If you even want to be thought of as an Authentic Leader then you must be willing to work with that person to help them develop into the very best version of themselves. As a leader it’s your responsibility to motivate to be on their best behavior every day, not only on days when they are interviewing for a job.
Even if they fooled you into thinking they had a positive attitude when they didn’t, you need to ask yourself if you’re providing an atmosphere where poor attitudes can thrive or is the culture your cultivating within your organization one where positive attitudes are so contagious that negative attitudes can’t survive.
Accepting a leadership title is very easy to do. Accepting the responsibility for people that goes with it is not easy. Accepting the responsibility for the success of those people is harder still.
But Authentic Leaders do it anyway. Authentic Leaders know the trauma a termination can cause people. They know it’s effects can be devastating and long lasting. That’s why they hire carefully and work tirelessly to develop the people in their organizations.
Think about that the next time you become so frustrated with YOUR leadership abilities that your tempted to fire someone because of it. Be certain that termination is truly your last resort and not your first one.
5 thoughts on “Before You Fire That Person”
I have an employee who has been with us for 14 years now. He went through an extended rough patch about 5 years ago where he kept forgetting to come to work. He needed a lot of help getting through it. We started with progressive discipline and eventually took a diversion through an employee assistance program, because we wanted to save his job–and we did; but, the situation did quite a bit of damage to our credibility as mangers at the time. The appearance to the others was no consequences. The reality was, his path back to productive employee was not a straight line, took some time, and it was confidential. He’s still with us, and though he will never be a rock star, he’s a capable employee. Every now and then his old behavior rears up, and we coach him back. I value him as a human and as an employee, and went to every length to save his job. I would do it again–despite the criticism from the cheap seats.
That’s an interesting situation Marc. With all the privacy laws these days you can’t make public what your doing to help an employer through tough times. So the optics of that often do not look good. That’s true many times when we do the right thing instead of the easy thing. But it’s always better to take care of people in the long run…just because they are people.
Perfectly stated! Great insights!