When Firing Is Better

Sometimes it would just be easier, and better for all parties if we were honest and just “Fired their sorry asses!” It would be easier for management, because there is less corporate drama around firing and hiring than around a reorg, or implementing alternative staffing models, and RIF’s are either good (when the economy is going down) or bad (when it is going up), from a market analysts perspective – but firing ineffective employees and hiring new talent is always good.

Being fired carries an unnecessary stigma. Nobody wants to be fired. It carries the stigma of being unwanted or worse, undesireable. Instead, we are “let go”, or laid off. There is a Reduction In Force (RIF). All terms that have less negative connotative meaning.

But often, when one is laid off, or let go, when there is a reduction in force, it is contrived. We lay off 100 workers because we have decided to hire a consulting firm to do their jobs.

It is not eliminating excess capacity, it is an contrived excuse to rid the workforce of ineffective staff. There, I said it. So often, it seems that companies staff restructuring decisions, are merely contrived as an excuse to eliminate less desirable staff, without giving them as much opportunity to file greivances and lawsuits.

It would be better for the employee, because we can stop playing games with feedback. What do I mean? Well – here it is, since the HR requires managers to follow this draconian process of performance (or the lack thereof) documentation before initiating a separation (hr speak for firing someone) – Typically, managers have to document their ineffectiveness, concretely, so that the company has supporting documentation should the separated employee grieve or litigate the action after the fact. This documentation process takes months, sometimes a year or more, and requires extra effort for the manager. The feedback (that the employee is ineffective) must also be documented, and he must be given a chance to “redeem” his performance. This often escalates the bad behavior of the employee, rather than otherwise, as he looks for some other environmental factor (including bad bossery) to blame for his failure. Meanwhile, the team, project, system, involved is impaired and the other employees are resentful of pulling someone elses weight.

It is easier, often to shunt such an employee from team to team, hoping that the next manager will have the guts to do what is required.

This hr documentation process, actually encourages underperforming employees to continue acting as if the company owes them a living, owes them a chance to prove themselves, owes them an opportunity, rather than forcing them to wake up and smell the coffee. Firing them, gives them a unique ability to introspect, to evaluate, to hit the reset button. It forces them to face a specific reality – if I want to keep a job, I have to do something that my employer values.

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