“You’re fired!” No other words can so easily and succinctly reduce a confident, self-assured executive to an insecure, groveling shred of his former self.” – Frank P. Loucheim, founder of Right Management Consultants, Inc.
He’s not exaggerating. Being fired is devastating; it can cut to the core of your identity and turn you into a “shred,” hopefully only temporarily. That said, I am far from anti-firing. Sometimes companies have to cut the deadweight. Good for them. What I very much oppose is letting people go for no reason – or no reason that’s been clearly articulated to them, discussed at reviews, or brought up by supervisors. When this is the case, being fired isn’t just devastating, it’s plain wrong – and a bad move for the company.
“You’re Fired!” A Case Study in Organizational Stupidity
In the past, I worked with an individual who was a hiring manager for an organization. Now, as we all know – or SHOULD! – there is a talent war on for people with high-level skills and experience. Finding candidates to fill vital functions is incredibly tough, and if you’re not on the frontlines, it’s often not fully appreciated.
This person was always professional, never received negative feedback, and consistently received pay increases. Never, not once, did anyone sit down and say, “We’re not happy with your work.” He did, however, get a phone call (a phone call!) one day, out of the blue. His manager said, “I think it’s time you start looking for another job.”
What?! He was completely blindsided. Imagine never hearing a negative word, walking into work one day planning your to-do list, and being told to clean out your desk. That still happens in some companies. It’s unconscionable, and it’s terrible business. I know I wouldn’t want to work for an organization where I could get fired for no reason. Who would?
The Beauty Contest
In this case, part of the problem was that some employees thought they saw better candidates than who he was hiring, that he should have taken their opinion into consideration and scored more qualified candidates for their team. This leads back to a bigger problem that is still prevalent in many companies: the old beauty contest.
Some organizations don’t have interviews. They have beauty contests. They want to see who “looks” the best and fits into their preconceived idea of the ideal candidate. The reality is there are ideal candidates – which you could identify if you benchmarked the job. When you have benchmarks, you stop the beauty contest.
Let’s say you’re the one who’s a hiring manager. Candidate A comes in. Good on paper. Seems fine. “But I want to see more candidates. Who else is out there?” Because A doesn’t match up with what you think is the perfect candidate. You want to see B, and C, and D… when the truth is that there isn’t a line of people banging at the door to get into your company.
I’m not suggesting that companies should “settle.” But I am saying that if you have benchmarks, you have unbiased documentation of what the job needs. Not what you think it needs. Not what you envision. What it actually needs. With benchmarks, you’re looking for a list of top seven competencies, two main behaviors, secondary behaviors, and top three motivators. Candidate A is a close match? Great. Why do you need to see B, C, and D?
Why This Should Never Happen
People have biases. I do. We all do. We’re human. But benchmarks take that bias away and allow you to assess candidates objectively. And you know what? You’re going to get better employees that way; you’re going to increase retention; you’re going to cultivate a reputation for integrity and transparency. You can also use those benchmarks to assess performance. That way, you never fire someone without cause and without objectively discussing where they’re missing the mark objectively.
The bottom line is that firing people for no reason – and not hiring them for no reason – is wrong. If your business wants to get ahead, you cannot treat people that way. You don’t have to sit around singing kumbaya, but you do have to accord employees and candidates the respect, honesty, and fairness to which they are entitled.
If you don’t? Candidate A can walk right over to your competitor, as can your employees. And they should.