Managing Emotions in Hard Decisions

Staffing Pearl of Wisdom: Fire Assholes

Authors Allison Rimm and Celia Brown article: “Knowing When to Fire Someone” Harvard Business Review, should be mandatory reading for anyone in management. Let’s set the scenario. We suspect that if you entertained a group of 50 managers/directors one evening for light refreshments, 45 of the 50 individuals would have a problem employee story. Rimm and Brown take these conversations past the story stage that usually ends with: “I would fire them if not for __________(fill in the blank).

No one would state that the firing decision is easy. So the question remains, how to get past the suffering and on to the next stage. Enter the “Employee Cost/Benefit Employment Worksheet”. It sets out a process that every manager/supervisor/director should be going through when dealing with an employee that may be competent in skills, but a toxic element in the office. Allison Rimm’s worksheet begs a quality overview of the individual’s strengths and potential for improvement weighed against the liability in the office setting. Hard discussions and decisions made clearer.

Notice we said clearer – not clear. We all know, and Rimm and Brown give great treatment, to the fact that no two situations will be the same. Just as our 50 managers above have 50 stories, every treatment is case by case. This is the beauty of the worksheet (available in the article). One of the bonus features is to prevent something that we have to address in (almost) all conflict situations that may result in termination: working past emotions and getting down to fact. If this individual is demoralizing the work setting and stealing precious time (your most important commodity), decisions need to be made.

The concluding message says it all: “Coming to grips with the need to fire a colleague, particularly when you’ve invested so much of your own effort to remediate his or her weaknesses, is one of the toughest management decisions you’ll ever have to make.“

Bravo to Rimm and Brown.

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