You're sacked! NEXT!
Although I have written about Undercover Boss, don’t expect this post to be about Donald Trump’s Apprentice (even if the show has now officially jumped the shark, since we now have crook governors and ex-wrestlers). But while fun to say “You’re Fired!” on TV, it’s a lot harder in real life.
I found some interesting comments on firings from an unlikely source, international tough guy Vladimir Putin. The article in the Financial Times covers Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s string of sackings throughout the government. Apparently this is where he and Putin rarely part ways. Putin’s comments on firing reveal a different perspective.
“Some might accuse me of fatalism,” he wrote. “For me it is absolutely obvious that to demonstrate one’s power by simply appointing people and getting rid of them, nothing good will come of this.” Often, Mr Putin said, sacking officials and replacing them led “to the same results, if not worse”.
This is very well said. Firing is not about power, and when done poorly for the wrong reasons, it can make the entire organization worse. For the record, I have no problem with firing someone. But you should make this decision more because of the future than the past. I think this is important enough to repeat. Make a decision about firing about what it means in the future rather than just what happened in the past.
Here’s some examples of how it works:
If you are trying to a send a message to the individual, what’s the point? They don’t work for you anymore. If you are trying to send a message, send a clear message (about ethics, racism, violence…) to everyone else for future behavior. That means that a firing must be very public, including communication as to the cause.
The Performance Gap
If someone failed in their performance in the past, firing them will neither fix it nor really help them learn. It doesn’t send a message, except to keep your head down, and doesn’t improve the problem. If someone will be unable to succeed in the future in their job because of capabilities, fit, needs, etc., then it is not right to keep them in their job. It’s not about what’s best for them – of course firing them is not best for them. But what about all the other people in the organization. It doesn’t demonstrate respect for them to keep someone in a role they are incapable of serving.
These are just two reasons for firings. Depending if you are looking forward or backward, there are very different decisions you can be making. Obviously, this is still a last resort. It’s not fun. It is still a failing of management. But when it comes down to decision time, make the decision for the right reasons.