6 Little Words that I Never Want to Say Again

Photo by cottonbro

“We have to let you go.” Just 6 little words. They are simple. They are pointed. They are 6 of the hardest words for me to string together into a sentence.

I absolutely love:

  • Leading teams
  • Collaborating on projects
  • Training colleagues
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Learning from others at all levels
  • And…I love it when a plan comes together! (…nod to the A-Team!) LOL

Leading is never easy but it can be so rewarding. It’s always a good workout for my communication and mediation skills. My goal in most cases is to build a high performance team with my colleagues. One person’s strengths offset another person’s weaknesses and vice versa. Ideally, we all learn from one another. We all trust one another.

As a manager, I’ve always felt a sense of loss and frustration when I’ve had to send a team member on their way. I invest a lot of time and energy working with and helping my fellow employees grow into (and beyond) their roles. In a couple of cases, the decision was financial and it was not mine to make. However, as the manager, it was up to me to deliver the bad news.

In one other case, the person was excellent at their job, they loved the work and I loved having them as a direct report. The reason was company policy. A person could only remain on contract in a given role for a limited period of time. If it had been up to me, I would have hired them on the spot. However, keeping the headcount low took precedence, regardless of how amazing that person was!

And then there are the times when you have to “fire” someone for cause. In some ways, this is worse than it being a business decision. (Stuff happens…it’s business.) I liked this person. I trusted this person. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. When there are serious performance and/or conduct issues it feels like a personal betrayal.

There is only one time that I had to confront someone with damning evidence of misconduct but I have a very vivid memory of the feeling in the pit of my stomach walking into that conversation. As they tried to deny any wrongdoing, I desperately wanted to believe them. They insisted that the discrepancies were due to something that was not within their control.

Unfortunately for them, the issue had been brought to light before. The other manager and I made it clear that it most certainly was within their control to follow our strict money-handling and return policies. Any issues were to be brought to the attention of myself or the other manager ASAP so we could sign off on the transaction. It was for their own protection as much as it was for keeping an accurate record of all transactions.

Photo by Lukas

The other manager and I checked, double-checked and triple-checked our books and our inventory. Either this person was pocketing cash with bogus returns or they could not follow simple instructions. In either case, we had no choice but to fire them. It was a horrible feeling. This was someone with a young and growing family to support.

This incident happened many moons ago and I never saw that person again. I hope they are well.

Hopefully, I will never have to confront someone like that again but as a manager, you have to take the bad with the good.

Have you ever had to fire someone for cause? What were the circumstances? How did it feel to confront that person?

© 2021 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting.

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