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You're sacked! NEXT!

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 03-17-10

vvp_landing.jpg

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:

The Message

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.

Comments

  • The main thing about the past is that past behavior is often a good predictor of future behavior. This is where the intervention comes into play. Are the interventions in place that will change behavior toward the desired state? Are they working? Have we exhausted the reasonable intervention strategies and still not changing behavior? The old maxim, “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught” comes to mind.

    I have fired individuals before and have never gotten comfortable with it, and I hope I never do. However, in a case such as safety procedures, and the person has been trained, retrained, given the whys behind the policy, and they continue to endanger themselves and others, it’s time to part ways.

    Mark Welch March 17, 2010 at 8:36 am
  • The main thing about the past is that past behavior is often a good predictor of future behavior. This is where the intervention comes into play. Are the interventions in place that will change behavior toward the desired state? Are they working? Have we exhausted the reasonable intervention strategies and still not changing behavior? The old maxim, “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught” comes to mind.

    I have fired individuals before and have never gotten comfortable with it, and I hope I never do. However, in a case such as safety procedures, and the person has been trained, retrained, given the whys behind the policy, and they continue to endanger themselves and others, it’s time to part ways.

    Mark Welch March 17, 2010 at 8:36 am
  • The main thing about the past is that past behavior is often a good predictor of future behavior. This is where the intervention comes into play. Are the interventions in place that will change behavior toward the desired state? Are they working? Have we exhausted the reasonable intervention strategies and still not changing behavior? The old maxim, “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught” comes to mind.

    I have fired individuals before and have never gotten comfortable with it, and I hope I never do. However, in a case such as safety procedures, and the person has been trained, retrained, given the whys behind the policy, and they continue to endanger themselves and others, it’s time to part ways.

    Mark Welch March 17, 2010 at 8:36 am
  • My personal experience is more with “market-based” layoffs than firing for cause or lack thereof. But the greatest challenge I’ve seen is when leadership, typically new leadership, sees a need to change direction, when doing what you’ve always done is no longer good enough or even undermines the new strategy. Whether the change of leadership focus is warranted or not, that’s a difficult transition for many who’ve been successful to make, especially if they’ve been well rewarded for past behavior and performance. Intervention actions, wherever they might lead, become a signal of how serious and committed leadership is to the change in direction.

    Awesome Putin photo! He just exudes quiet malevolence and power.

    David Drickhamer March 17, 2010 at 9:47 am
  • My personal experience is more with “market-based” layoffs than firing for cause or lack thereof. But the greatest challenge I’ve seen is when leadership, typically new leadership, sees a need to change direction, when doing what you’ve always done is no longer good enough or even undermines the new strategy. Whether the change of leadership focus is warranted or not, that’s a difficult transition for many who’ve been successful to make, especially if they’ve been well rewarded for past behavior and performance. Intervention actions, wherever they might lead, become a signal of how serious and committed leadership is to the change in direction.

    Awesome Putin photo! He just exudes quiet malevolence and power.

    David Drickhamer March 17, 2010 at 9:47 am
  • My personal experience is more with “market-based” layoffs than firing for cause or lack thereof. But the greatest challenge I’ve seen is when leadership, typically new leadership, sees a need to change direction, when doing what you’ve always done is no longer good enough or even undermines the new strategy. Whether the change of leadership focus is warranted or not, that’s a difficult transition for many who’ve been successful to make, especially if they’ve been well rewarded for past behavior and performance. Intervention actions, wherever they might lead, become a signal of how serious and committed leadership is to the change in direction.

    Awesome Putin photo! He just exudes quiet malevolence and power.

    David Drickhamer March 17, 2010 at 9:47 am
  • Outstanding post, Jamie. Your point on a decision to fire someone based on “what it means in the future rather just what happened in the past” is a thought provoking insight. More thought should go into making this decision by a manager. Unfortunately in today’s business world, rapid (short term) action is valued over most else. As a result, managers only choices are to hire, fire or re-assign and forget about using skills like inspire, influence, coach and mentor. Sad.

    Mike Wroblewski March 17, 2010 at 10:37 am
  • Outstanding post, Jamie. Your point on a decision to fire someone based on “what it means in the future rather just what happened in the past” is a thought provoking insight. More thought should go into making this decision by a manager. Unfortunately in today’s business world, rapid (short term) action is valued over most else. As a result, managers only choices are to hire, fire or re-assign and forget about using skills like inspire, influence, coach and mentor. Sad.

    Mike Wroblewski March 17, 2010 at 10:37 am
  • Outstanding post, Jamie. Your point on a decision to fire someone based on “what it means in the future rather just what happened in the past” is a thought provoking insight. More thought should go into making this decision by a manager. Unfortunately in today’s business world, rapid (short term) action is valued over most else. As a result, managers only choices are to hire, fire or re-assign and forget about using skills like inspire, influence, coach and mentor. Sad.

    Mike Wroblewski March 17, 2010 at 10:37 am
  • Thank you everyone for the comments.

    Mark, I think there is a cut-bait-and-run point. Obviously you start with feedback, then dig deeper into some coaching, and then maybe the ultimatum. Some, keep in mind, like violence or racism, shouldn’t even get feedback – you’re just done, get out. But for others, once you’ve exhausted your current capability, there is a gap between teacher and student. You should reflect on the situation and see how you can improving your teaching and coaching. But you’re probably not going to fire yourself. So if the gap isn’t going to be closed, don’t waste any more time.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh March 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm
  • Thank you everyone for the comments.

    Mark, I think there is a cut-bait-and-run point. Obviously you start with feedback, then dig deeper into some coaching, and then maybe the ultimatum. Some, keep in mind, like violence or racism, shouldn’t even get feedback – you’re just done, get out. But for others, once you’ve exhausted your current capability, there is a gap between teacher and student. You should reflect on the situation and see how you can improving your teaching and coaching. But you’re probably not going to fire yourself. So if the gap isn’t going to be closed, don’t waste any more time.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh March 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm
  • Thank you everyone for the comments.

    Mark, I think there is a cut-bait-and-run point. Obviously you start with feedback, then dig deeper into some coaching, and then maybe the ultimatum. Some, keep in mind, like violence or racism, shouldn’t even get feedback – you’re just done, get out. But for others, once you’ve exhausted your current capability, there is a gap between teacher and student. You should reflect on the situation and see how you can improving your teaching and coaching. But you’re probably not going to fire yourself. So if the gap isn’t going to be closed, don’t waste any more time.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh March 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm
  • Dave – just to digress a little… I noticed your comment on the Putin photo. I remember President Bush once saying that when he looks into Putin’s eyes he saw a friend. When John McCain was asked what he saw in Putin’s eyes he said, “Three letters – KGB.” I tend to agree with McCain.

    Mark Welch March 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm
  • Dave – just to digress a little… I noticed your comment on the Putin photo. I remember President Bush once saying that when he looks into Putin’s eyes he saw a friend. When John McCain was asked what he saw in Putin’s eyes he said, “Three letters – KGB.” I tend to agree with McCain.

    Mark Welch March 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm
  • Dave – just to digress a little… I noticed your comment on the Putin photo. I remember President Bush once saying that when he looks into Putin’s eyes he saw a friend. When John McCain was asked what he saw in Putin’s eyes he said, “Three letters – KGB.” I tend to agree with McCain.

    Mark Welch March 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm