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Should you take the time to visit customers and suppliers in person? Absolutely.
Who makes the best accountant? A pessimist.
What do you do with a good employee who is a jerk? Fire him!
Whether you are a young company that's just starting out or a mature business looking to grow, Bob pritchett's hands-on advice and practical examples are a must-read for every manager, ...
Should you take the time to visit customers and suppliers in person? Absolutely.
Who makes the best accountant? A pessimist.
What do you do with a good employee who is a jerk? Fire him!
Whether you are a young company that's just starting out or a mature business looking to grow, Bob pritchett's hands-on advice and practical examples are a must-read for every manager, business owner, and entrepreneur.
Inside this book, you will not find Thirteen Incontrovertible Laws of Excellence. You won't find motivational clichés to frame and put on your desk. And there are no step-by-step instructions for writinga business plan.
Instead, in Fire Someone Today, you'll read what Pritchett has discovered through his years of experience as an entrepreneur and small business owner. It is a book about what to do, what not to do, and why. For your business, it could be that one piece of advice that makes all the difference . . . and even give you a few laughs along the way.
"A year's worth of lunches with someone who has been way down the road and taken a lot of lumps." ―Guy Kawasaki, Author, The Art of the Start
"Made you think! And that's more than you can hope for from the typical business book, that's for sure. Everyone who manages anyone needs to think about the stuff inside." ―Seth Godin, Author, All Marketers are Liars
"Bob Pritchett has written a classic for anyone running or starting up a small to mid-sized business. There's compelling information on every page." ―Pat Williams, Senior Vice President, Orlando Magic
"Fire Someone Today is a breakthrough for those of us who hate wading through theoretical business books." ―Kevin Cable, Cofounder, Cascadia Capital
John was not making it in sales. Not in frontline sales to customers and not in relationship-based sales to resellers. John was not a good fit for technical support or administration either.
John was a great guy, and I couldn't bear the thought of firing him, so when a position opened up managing the shipping department, we put John there.
Costs began to rise in shipping. John needed more staff than the previous manager had. Personality conflicts emerged, and soon I was regularly leading long meetings where we worked on issues-costs, quality, personalities-that the department had never had problems with before.
Having already moved John through the whole company, there was only one more move to make. John had to go.
I dreaded firing him. I worried about what he would do, where he would find work in our small town, and how he would support his family. In my mind I took on all his responsibilities as my own. I put off the event for as long as I could until it was clear that the costs and conflicts were endangering the whole organization.
What a relief it was when I finally fired John. Shipping ran smoothly, and costs were reduced. All it cost me was a small burden of guilt and failure. I thought I could carry that weight until one evening when my mother told me she had run into John's wife at the grocery store. I cringed.
"John's wife told me how glad she was that you let John go," my mother told me. "It forced him to think about what he really wanted to do, and he has decided to go back to school and prepare for ministry."
What a relief! I had not ruined John's life. And what a waste, I later realized. In my foolish desire to take responsibility for John, I had helped keep him from his true calling for as much as a year after it was clear to me that he was in the wrong place.
Who Should I Fire Today?
If you have more than a handful of employees, then you probably have some who need to go. The reasons they need to go are varied; each employee is a unique individual and special in his or her own way. Fortunately, we have some big bins you can toss them into for easy sorting.
Whiner. The whiner is happy only when he is unhappy. The whiner is not engaging in constructive criticism and is not taking initiative to address problems. The whiner is just relentlessly complaining. At best the whiner simply annoys everyone around him with his silly, petty complaints. More often he sucks joy out of the organization like a massive leech of discontent. Slacker. You will find slackers all over the office: standing at the coffee machine, sitting at other employees' desks, and lounging with the newspaper in the lobby. Occasionally, you will even find slackers at their desks-surfing the Internet. Incompetent. The incompetent are often well behaved, eager to please, and disciplined in their work. They just don't do it very well. Troublemaker. The troublemaker stirs up discontent and actively works to create "us versus them" divisions throughout the organization: between you and your employees, between individual employees, between departments within the organization, and even between the organization and the customers. More dangerous than self-absorbed whiners, troublemakers set up conflict even when they are not a party to it. Misfit. The misfits are just in the wrong place. They may have a good attitude, good work habits, and even great skills. They just don't get the indefinable it that is the key to success in your organization. Or worse, they do get it, but it is something they don't really care about. They think they can care if they try hard enough, but it is hopeless. Their hearts are not in it. Redundant. The innocent of the group, the redundant is the number two person in a job that one person can do well. Ideally, redundant employees can be moved into other positions, but when that is not an option, it is important to see them for what they are: a wasted resource. The waste is not just of your resources either: if their work is superfluous, then they are wasting their time in a job with no growth or prospects.
How Do I Know When to Fire?
If you already have someone in mind, today is the day.
If you are thinking you need to fire someone, then you probably already have tried to address your concerns about his or her performance in other ways. In order to be certain that firing is the right step, it is good to review the ways in which you already have tried to address the problem. Did you
explain the position and what is required of the employee? provide training on equipment and procedures? conduct informal reviews of performance and outline areas that need improvement? discuss conflicts and differences with coworkers and try to resolve them? ask the employee what he thinks of his performance and how he believes it could be improved? conduct a formal performance review and record the review in writing?
These are important steps in helping employees succeed, but they have usually been exhausted by the time you start thinking of firing them. You are thinking of firing them because you already know in your heart that it is time for them to go. Follow your instinct.
Why Are We Reluctant to Fire People?
There are lots of bad reasons that we are reluctant to fire people.
We want to be kind. Firing people seems mean. We are concerned for the employees. We take on too much responsibility for the employees and think that we are protecting them from financial difficulty, emotional distress, embarrassment, etc. We don't want to admit that we made a mistake in hiring. After investing so much time and money in advertising and interviewing to fill a position, it seems like a personal failure if the hire doesn't work out. Especially if we "sold" this hire to other managers or bragged about the new employee's credentials. Or worse, if we sold the position to the candidate who is now the employee we need to fire. We have a large investment in training. We would rather throw good money after bad than write off the bad. We don't know how we will fill the position. Somebody has to do this job, and if we fire this person today, who is going to do the job tomorrow? We don't have anyone else to fill the position nor the time to find them.
These are not just bad reasons; these are selfish excuses. Compassion is caring about others, but retaining the employee who should be fired is all about caring for ourselves-it is never about the employee. We want to protect our investment, our presumptuous feeling of parental responsibility, our time and energy, even our reputation for "being nice."
If employees quit, or were hit by the proverbial bus, we would find a way to address any real issues related to their sudden absence-we would have to, because their departure date would be out of our control.
The past is also out of our control; we can't go back and not make the hire, not spend on the training, or not create a "mission critical" job function. By firing we can at least make today the day we start investing in the future instead of continuing to waste resources and to delay the inevitable.
What Happens When We Don't Fire
When we don't fire employees who need to be fired, we are doing a great disservice to the employees, their coworkers, and ourselves.
We are sending the employees a message: "You're no good." Even when we don't say those words, we are communicating the message in our silence. Because when we hold back on firing someone, we aren't just holding back the negative "You're fired" message; we are holding back all the subtle positive messages that encourage and motivate people every day.
We are not telling the employees that they are doing a good job. We are not giving them promotions or pay increases or bonuses. We are not letting them work on the most important projects or with the most important customers. We are not putting them in a position to be appreciated and respected by their peers.
We are sending the employees' coworkers a message: "You don't need to do a good job. We don't distinguish between good work and bad around here, so don't take the trouble to do things right, or fast, or at all. There is no penalty for really bad performance and probably no reward for really great performance. Nobody is watching."
Our employees know, often better than we do, who is and is not pulling their weight and contributing to the organization. They are looking at us to see how we address poor performance or deal with people who are misplaced in the organization.
We are poisoning our own attitudes. Our own attitudes change as we develop a feeling of pride about our "mercy" in retaining the employees while, at the same time, resentment grows for what we perceive are their responsibilities and our wasted time and resources. This chilling of the heart will reveal itself in icy blasts at the employees and their coworkers.
In truth it is our responsibility as managers and bosses to act, not the employees'. When we don't fire appropriately, we are wasting everyone's time. The employees are delayed in their pursuit of a better-suited job. The organization suffers from waiting for the right person for the job. And we damage our own authority and effectiveness by failing to perform our own job: properly managing our limited resources.
How to Go About Firing Someone Today
As important as it is to fire when necessary, you first want to make sure that it is necessary. As a last resort, you should think about retaining the employee in a different position-effectively firing the person from the current job but hiring her for another one. For an employee in the "misfit" bin, this can be a way to retain your investment in finding, hiring, and training.
Don't use a change in job description or an in-company transfer to avoid a necessary firing, but be sure to evaluate them as options. Firing someone should not be about the person, but it should be about the poor pairing of the person with the job. Don't let the necessity of firing an employee from her present job prevent you from seeing possibilities for her success in a different position.
If you don't have a job in which the employee could succeed, the next step is to talk to your attorney.
As expensive as it is to talk to your attorney, it is a lot more expensive to make a mistake in the process of firing someone. In the minimum billable portion of an hour, you can review the circumstances of and potential problems with the planned firing. It is a great investment, at least until you are completely familiar with the issues and have a formal process in place.
Even if you have become something of an expert on employment law and are widely known as "The Axe," you will want to consult your attorney before firing anyone who might have grounds for a complaint or, just as important, who might be inclined to make a complaint, grounds or not.
You need to be completely prepared before actually firing someone.
Consult your attorney or internal guidelines and make sure that you are not going to violate any employment or discrimination laws. Check any relevant employment contract for special notice or severance pay requirements.
Inform the various staff members or departments (payroll, security, network administration, etc.) who may need to know of the firing beforehand in order to cancel security codes and network access and to calculate final compensation.
The most important preparation is to be firmly decided. The meeting where you fire someone is a presentation, not a negotiation.
When you announce that you are firing someone, you are taking your professional relationship with that person over the edge of a cliff. There is no way back to the top of the cliff; there is only pathetic grasping at branches on the way down. The employee may suggest a change in job description, different working hours, or reduced compensation, or may ask for another chance to make improvements in her performance. You have reviewed all these options before deciding to fire, so you can clearly and politely explain that the decision has been made and that there is nothing to negotiate.
Your presentation should use the minimum amount of time required to address the maximum list of issues. Think of it as a concise PowerPoint presentation with little time for questions. (Actually using PowerPoint to fire someone is a bad idea.)
If you have followed the right steps before firing people, it won't be coming as a complete surprise to them. (Unless you are firing them because they can't see things coming.) It is imperative that you give only a short, verbal reason for firing someone. Don't elaborate, and don't put it in writing. Imagine that there is a Miranda warning for supervisors:
You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, you are wrong because you can't afford not to have an attorney. Anything you say will be recorded, discussed, analyzed, dissected, twisted, and thrown back at you in a court of law and in the eating and drinking establishments where your employees congregate.
A checklist can help ensure that you don't forget anything and that your presentation addresses as many questions as possible. Items on the checklist should include the following.
The reason. Explain why you are firing the employee. Be concise. Effective date. Explain that the firing is effective immediately. (It should always be effective immediately.) Return of company property. Ask for immediate return of all keys, employee ID, equipment, etc. Have a checklist prepared for items the employee may not have on his person and a deadline for their return. Review of agreements. Provide copies of confidentiality and noncompete agreements the employee has already signed. Benefits status. Provide a written explanation of the status of her benefits and the procedures involved in continuing health benefits, moving or cashing out retirement accounts, etc. Final compensation. Have a check prepared for everything owed to the employee (salary, commissions, accrued vacation time, etc.) through the end of the day. Severance. If you choose to offer a severance payment, you may have the option of providing it in exchange for a release against any complaints related to the firing. You should not require the employee to sign the release at the firing meeting; give him a day or two to review it and take it to his own attorney if he chooses, and then pay the severance on the return of the signed agreement and all company property. Personal effects. At the conclusion of the meeting, you should ask the employee to gather her personal effects and leave. You don't want to delay this or give the employee access to the facility later without supervision. If you escort people to their desks and then to the door, people may think you are cold. But if you let them hang around long enough to erase files, take the customer list, or send a nasty e-mail to the whole company, people will just think you are stupid. Cold is better than stupid.
Planning and preparation make a difficult process easier for everyone involved.
After the fired employee leaves, you should announce his departure to his coworkers. A simple e-mail or statement like "Today was John's last day with the company" is enough.
Excerpted from Fire Someone Today by Bob Pritchett Copyright © 2007 by Bob Pritchett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|1||Fire Someone Today||1|
|2||You Are the Reason You Are in Business||12|
|3||Nobody Loves Your Baby Like You Do||21|
|4||There Can Be Only One-Plan for Your Partner's Departure||32|
|5||Don't Hire Anyone You Haven't Interviewed||41|
|6||Cash Is King||52|
|7||Quality, Price, Service-Prioritize||59|
|8||Nobody Needs an Optimistic Accountant||67|
|9||You Can Always Find 5%||74|
|10||Profit Is Why You Are in Business||87|
|11||If You Are Not Growing, You Are Shrinking||96|
|12||Good Systems Protect You from the Perfect Employee||106|
|13||The One Who Writes Wins||118|
|15||Don't Fly Blind-Build a Dashboard||137|
|16||Visit Everyone in Person||143|
|17||Press Is Yours If You Ask-and If You Want It||152|
|18||In Acquisitions, the Buyer Is the Loser||161|
|20||Winning Takes 51%||179|
|21||Some People Are Your Greatest Assets||187|
|22||Business Is a Serious Game||196|
|About the Author||205|