Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Firing People or Getting Fired is Quite the Unpleasant Experience

Here's the situation: the row boat that seven of us are in is taking on water and we're sinking. There are two people who are dangerously injured and don't look like they are going to "make it." There are sharks everywhere circling the boat. If you don't throw out at least two people, the boat will sink and everyone will be eaten by sharks. You'd sacrifice yourself if that would help but you are the only one who knows the oceans and the way to land and safety. If you die, everyone dies.

What do you do? 

I know what I do. I throw the two most unlikely to survive people overboard so that the rest might have a chance to live.

Being thrown to the sharks or having to throw someone to the sharks is quite the unpleasant experience. I've, of course, experienced both.

Sometimes, when running a company or deciding what is best for your life and/or your family. The best decision is the most unpopular one.

Today, I had to terminate the contracts for two people at my company. Did I want to do it? No, of course not. But I had to.

Even so, and even though I explained to the remaining staff the reasons why and what for, a few people are very upset and complained.

I don't know why they don't think of their own families well-being first. Many times, Japanese people want to run a company like one big happy family.

But even big families have crisis moments and some difficult decisions have to be made by management, er, I mean mommy and daddy.

The health of the company must take priority over the well-being of one or two people. It has to be that way.

Well, yeah. But if you don't stop moping about your 
departed co-workers, then I give you guys one big 
guess as to who is next? This is not a Communist corporation.

Even though, it is quite obvious what the motivations were... I can't understand how some of the people remaining can complain. If the company fails, which is very possible, then there are no jobs for anyone. And, that, of course, includes the remaining five people. I asked them if they would all agree to share a 50% pay cut (I would take the same) and split the money up amongst the two terminated people so that they can remain at the company.

Of course, they all said, "No!" 

It's easy to be valiant and caring for people when you are using other people's money, I suppose. There's a huge difference between having a jaw bone and a back bone. 

The boss has to have a back bone. 

Making tough decisions like this is one of the difficult parts of being a company owner or even being a parent.

For example, naturally, the kids don't want to go to the dentist to fix a cavity, but as the so-called responsible person (daddy in my case) someone has to make the unpopular decisions. Like it or not, they have to go.

A great leader will be able to get the understanding of all.

Unfortunately, it seems that it will take me a while to be a great leader. In the meantime, today, I am definitely not a very popular guy....

If you are interested in this subject, may I suggest reading Jim Collins seminal works, "Built to Last" and "Good to Great."


boo said...

It depends on how it is done. A good manager (never mind leader for now) communicates well enough on a regular basis that nobody would have been too surprised, least of all the contractors that were not being renewed. Not that this is easy. I've failed in the past also.

Andrew Joseph said...

Good story - I like that you offered them the chance to save the jobs of their comrades, but few people have the balls to sacrifice themselves to save someone else, let a lone two people. People always tend to look out for themselves.
You, as the boss, have to do that, too of course... but you also have to look out for the company as a whole. If it fails, then EVERYONE is out of a job. Each year at Rogers (no relation) where I worked for 6 years, there would be the annual blood-letting before Christmas. It didn't matter that my magazine continually made money, but we also had to make sacrifices for the entire magazine group consisting of 8 other magazines (or so). That meant we too lost people from our magazine. Me? Since I make a pittance, I kept my job. Then the magazine was sold... someone wanted us and our other magazines... we even got a bonus this year. First time I've ever got one in 22 years. Sucks to be you today, Mike. But with a tanking economy, your employees should be kissing your butt for allowing them to keep their jobs. Different situations... different outlooks. Hopefully 2012 is better for you. Me? I best hope for more of the same and less of the same.