The noble act of firing employees

We move through time.  Each moment is cumulative the the meaning of our life.

We often keep people in our employ for far too long.  It’s understandable.  There are many forces that impel us to keep working with someone who is holding the team back.  Regulation creates real risk in termination . Reputations can be damaged by a popular ex-employee saying bad things. Our own dysfunction can make us feel dependent upon someone leaving us powerless. Inertia and our fear of losing momentum keeps us glued to today’s configuration, afraid of change or apathetically allowing us to keep “getting by”.  A meaningful and even positive personal relationship can be a local good, clouding our view of the critical global maxima.

It’s a wonder we ever dismiss anyone!

What happens when we fail to face the hard thing is that we destroy valuable time:

  1. The time of the team, wasted in sub-optimal configuration.  All those hopes and dreams nullified by requiring they work with a crumby partner who holds them back.  Failure to deal with this is the opposite of leadership.
  2. The time of your vendors who interface with the dysfunctional employee.  They were counting on you to be a true partner in a win-win relationship where your transactions build you both up.
  3. We should be terrified of living with our own pain in any relationship.  We get used to it, and after a while we don’t even notice it.  It becomes normal.  And that means we are ready for the next step down the spiral staircase to lameness.  Allowing yourself to lower your standards allows you to lower them further.  So the arc of your whole life is altered.  It’s not just today’s problem that was beneath you, that you wasted all that time on.  It’s the twenty thousand future times you weren’t even really alive anymore because you were used to living so poorly because it became normal for you.

But the point of this post is the time you wast of that very person who is the problem employee.  By enabling them, you prevent them from having to confront their own lies that they allow themselves.  “I’m cool, see I’ve got this job.”

“You sure do” you say, keeping them on track to never change.

Or worse, you pretend to deal with them via repeated admonishment.  Toothless.  You aren’t just wasting everybody’s time, you are ruining your own integrity, and as noted above, your ability to recognize it.

And one more point: sometimes it’s hard to see past the negative impact of terminating the problem employee.  They have a family, a mortgage, and you are human and compassionate.  You don’t want to bring them into crisis or worse, ruin.

That’s real, and to be a human manager, you have to consider that and have it impact your decisions.  To inure yourself of your impact, in time, results invariably in very bad business practices, and greater waste of time than is being discussed here.

Balance that care, however, for the care of the next employee you haven’t met yet.  They are also a part of a family.  Also have obligations, needs, and people counting on them.  Perhaps you are wasting time working with someone who is taking up the rightful spot of a devoted and righteous person who will do better for the community than the person you now enable.

Liberate them soon, humanely, so that they can learn and grow.  Welcome the next person who will more clearly deserve the opportunity you give them.  Free your team to better trust each other, to thrive.  Rescue yourself from a fate of low standards that are of use to no one.

Author: Cort Fritz

I make software, music, & amazing daughters.

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