Friday, June 30, 2006

You're Fired!

I just had to let someone go.

Ok, let's be honest. I chose to let someone go.

Man, do I feel a migraine coming on.

I've had to do this a number of times since becoming a "pointy haired boss" some years ago. Most of the time I have just been the messenger, letting people go as a result of corporate wide layoffs. Those were tough, but I took solace in the fact that the reason these people's lives were being turned upside down was a result of a "corporate" decision. (The Corporation - that pathological cold-blooded entity).

Getting terminated sucks in a huge way. Your whole life is turned upside down. One day you're worrying about where you're going to eat lunch, the next you're worrying about whether you can afford to eat lunch. You go tumbling down the pyramid of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs straight to the bottom, worrying now about food, shelter, and family.

A few times, I have made the decision to let someone go. A couple times, it was due to some criminal or ethical violation, and again, I took some solace in the fact that I was on the side of good, protecting the other employees or the company from malfeasance.

But a couple times, like today, I made the decision to let someone go based upon performance. My subjective evaluation that they weren't providing what I thought they should be providing in the position.

Me, judging my fellow man, then condemning them.

As with the other cases, I try to take some amount of solace in rationalizations, like "If I didn't replace this person with someone better, then the team will fail, the company will fail, and this would negatively affect everyone." Better for me to make the call, make sure we don't fail, and sacrifice the one for the many.

But in the end this is just rationalization. It still makes me physically ill to let someone go.

I question whether if I had been a better manager, communicator, mentor, whether I could have gotten the necessary level of performance out of this person. It would be so much easier to do what I see so often, and what I myself have done on occasion in the past - do nothing, and hope it all works out.

But whenever I've done that in the past, I've regretted it later. Poor performance begets poor performance. Allow a weed to live in your nicely manicured lawn and pretty soon there are more weeds. And more. At some point, the weeds win, and you have no more lawn.

I'm not looking for sympathy. It's not my life that just got hit with a sledgehammer.

But it still feels that way.


At Friday, June 30, 2006, Blogger Art said...

Dude...How long have you been in this position that you could make a valid decision in regard to terminating someone on performance! Have you been there a month yet!?! Just curious...

At Monday, August 07, 2006, Blogger A Muser said...

A coworker recently commented that they thought it was very insensitive of me to make this post. There was even some discussion as to whether or not I was disclosing company confidential information.

I tried hard not to put anything in the post that was identifying or specific - the point was to talk about the feelings involved, on both sides, of a termination. There wasn't anything discussed that wasn't publicly available.

But I agree that it was insensitive to the individual who was fired. If they read the post, or their friends read it and pointed it out to him, then it would just be like salt in the wound.

And for that I'm sorry.

Anyone who's read my blog for a while knows how blunt and insensitive I can be - looks like nothing much has changed in that department.


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