On The Firing Line (Part 2): Why Pull the Trigger? by Roz Usheroff

No!… But, I have my own company for about 20 years now. And if anyone should be fired it should be me. Thanks to my team for keeping me on the straight and narrow. So, I guess the answer is choose loyal, faithful people, let them know you can goof up, and they will cover your butt.  Be sure to recognize their input regularly – Caroline Bond

Of the many comments regarding my last post On The Firing Line (Part 1): How to respond if you ever hear the words “your fired,” the one above stood out as the perfect segue into today’s post.

If you have ever been a boss or had the responsibility to oversee the work of others, then you will likely have been put in the position of having to fire someone, or know of someone who has.

Obviously an unpleasant duty, I cannot help but think that given the litigious nature of today’s workplace, coupled with the belt and suspenders focus on avoiding legal action, very few companies actually take the time to look beyond the event itself.

Specifically, how did the employer – employee relationship break down to the point that termination was the only remaining option?

After all, no one looks to start a new job with the intention of one day being fired.  Nor do the managers who do the hiring.  So why does it happen?

The answer I believe rests in Caroline Bonds’ response.  Within her words you can find two key points as to how one can avoid being on either side of the firing line.

To start, she demonstrates a disarming humility when she states if anyone should be fired it should be me. Thanks to my team for keeping me on the straight and narrow.

Whenever we look upon our position as one in which we are the boss, the ultimate lawgiver so to speak, we create a wedge between ourselves and those we have supposedly chosen to work with us as part of our team.

The story of a rising young executive named Randy, about whom I wrote in my book, immediately comes to mind here.

With an expected promotion on the near horizon, Randy had a bright future.  Unfortunately, he equated being a successful leader with producing results at the expense of establishing and nurturing relationships.  Despite overseeing an important project that was successfully completed in eight months as opposed to the estimated twelve months   ̶   with an overall savings of $350,000.00  ̶   he forgot an essential leadership quality.  In his haste to succeed, Randy failed to recognize the need to be inclusive and acknowledge the contributions of others as absolute “must haves” in order to rally the team and reinforce management’s decision to promote him.

In the end, Randy did not receive the much anticipated promotion because as the CEO put it, “no one wants to work with you again.”

Unlike Caroline, Randy never established the connection with his team either as individuals or collectively.

The second key point in Caroline’s comment So, I guess the answer is choose loyal, faithful people, let them know you can goof up, and they will cover your butt, is an obvious yet elusive quest.

According to a CareerBuilder Survey two-thirds of American companies have made business mistakes surrounding the hiring of employees.  Sixty-nine percent of those employers who responded to the survey indicated that bad hires had “lowered their company’s productivity, affected worker morale and even resulted in legal issues.”

So who is ultimately responsible for a bad hire . . . and the resulting need to terminate someone’s employment?

right employee1

Rather than getting into how one should conduct a proper series of interviews as this in and of itself would provide the basis for a separate post, I would simply say that the person doing the hiring ultimately bears the responsibility.

When Caroline chose her people, I would imagine that they possessed qualities that best aligned with hers.  Once they joined the team, Caroline then created the work environment that nurtured these individual traits and in the process empowered each employee to perform at their very best.

This is of course the responsibility of any employer.  Within this context, and if and when you find yourself in the position of having to let someone go, view the situation through this more enlightened and compassionate lens.  Or to put it another way, there are three sides to most every story.  With the exception of those rare instances where an employee has acted with malice intent, chances are the employer has played at least some part in the employee’s inability to do the desired job.

Perhaps the best way to sum it all up is by referring to the closing paragraphs from a recent article by Inc. Magazine columnist Jeff Haden.

In his article “I Fired Joe, and We Both Have to Live With It” Haden would write;

Hiring, firing, disciplining, promoting… each is an everyday task for a leader. You need to make difficult and agonizing decisions about employees. So you think, you decide, you act, and then you put that decision behind you and move on.

That’s the job.

Yet doing that job can dramatically change the life of other people. No matter how hard you try to get every decision that changes another person’s life right, sometimes you won’t. Those decisions — and those regrets — you soon realize you will live with forever.

Those decisions — and those regrets — you soon realize will also change your life.

Hats off to all of you who try desperately to get every people decision right… and then pay the unseen price of wondering whether you got one wrong.



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