Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Hate Wussy Managers

There is a saying in business that you should always put someone between you and the problem.  And while that is a good management principal in terms of solutions, it is not an excuse to have someone else do what you should be doing.  

I meet many people who have been terminated.  Most of these people tell me that the deed has been done by human resources or a creative manager, not by the person they reported to..  In many cases the people doing the termination were people not previously known.  I find that appalling. 

While terminating employees is never pleasant or easy, it should never be done by a stranger.  Yes, I know a lot of human resource people think it is there job and most managers don’t want to do this as part of their job either, so it gets delegated to HR.  But that does not make it right. I have met executives who have been terminated after ten years or longer working for the same person, but that person was too much of a wuss to do it themselves so they delegated the deed to a stranger. And, to make it worse, they then avoid the terminated person.  

Part of being a manager is to face up to the fact that all aspects of management are not pleasant.  But for goodness sakes, if someone works for you, the least you can do is have a personal conversation with them, even if that conversation is unpleasant.  It just comes with the territory of being a manager.

Now there are cases, and I have heard about many of them, where human resources does the deed even before the manager of the person being let go knows that the person working for them is being let go.  That is equally appalling.  When that happens, the company is being merely expeditious and not very caring.

Delegation of negative jobs is not limited to terminations.  It also happens with negative evaluations which are often delivered by HR rather than the true evaluator. 

It is acceptable for the manager and the human resources person to do this together, but barely.  I understand that sometimes this is done to insure that there is proper communications of the event.  However, I find two on one, although acceptable, to be unnecessary and unfair, especially if the person being told the bad news barely knows the HR person.

When I ran account management, I always took the position that if someone worked for me, they needed to be given bad news by me and not a stranger.

The sign of a leader is to accept the responsibility for what has to be done.


  1. Paul,
    Of course you're right. But then you're also thinking - or maybe wishing -- that corporations have a heart and soul.


    1. Sadly, John, I wish that companies did have a soul. Most businesses boast that their only assets go down the elevator each evening. They don't realize that when people leave in a negative way, it reflects negatively on the whole organization.

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  3. Couldn't agree more. Managers need to realize that they are in relationships with the people they manage. When they delegate crucial conversations, they are treating the person and relationships with ultimate disrespect.

    If many cases, a termination doesn't have to end a productive relationship. I have hired, been hired by, promoted and partnered with people I had previously terminated (and who have terminated me or the agency). Some are clients. Some are partners. Were it not for the people we've fired and those who've fired us, we might not be here today.

    Letting someone go while showing that you care isn't easy. Your goal is to deliver the message in as kind and clear a way as possible. You can't expect to be liked at that moment -- it isn't about you at that moment, it's about the person who is experiencing the greater loss.

    However it goes, continue to communicate. Except in rare cases in which trust with the individual is irreparably broken, have the conversation one-on-one.

    I wasn't always good at this, and I've made mistakes. Sadly, I've had quite a bit of experience with terminations over the years. Things change. It's business. But, remember, it's a small business and relationships matter. Take the best care of people you can.

  4. Letting someone go "the right way" has multiple (and usually less harsh) implications - for the employee affected, the manager, and the company. It is never an easy moment particularly because, in the agency business, it often has nothing to do with employee performance, rather, a client realignment, budget cuts, etc. A direct superior of the person affected taking responsibility to doing it can make it better with the person affected, providing support, context and perspective. This often also plays more positively with the manager and company's reputation. HR comes in only to do the necessary paperwork. Ultimately, you want to treat others like you would want to be treated yourself.

    1. Riccardo, you are spot on. The golden rule always applies.

  5. First off ... Most people are cowards and invariably will take the path of least resistance or easy way out! I think that applies to almost everyone except (and I don't mind saying) people like me.

    On the other hand, with all the litigation going on these days over "wrongful" terminations, it's no wonder that HR does the dirty deed. They consult with the direct manager; talk to legal and accounting; get IT ready to "disconnect" the employee; and then deliver the bad news - usually followed by a security escort out of the building that day. Not always the case, but a pretty familiar scenario.

    It's a very sad state of affairs in the agency business today, but that's the way it is! BC

    1. You are right about cowards, Bill. While I know you are right about the way terminations are conducted, it does not have to be that way and should not be that way. HR should consult with the manager and, if necessary, provide a check list of things which have to be said, but HR should not do the firing. As for IT disconnecting and security escorts out of the building, that is just unnecessary and uncalled for in most cases. It does not have to be that way.

  6. Hi I was let go in my position as an Account Exec after being there for 3 months as I was told I don't 'fit' in the company culture. Which I think is an poor excuse!

    I was let go in the same way as you described above.

    My question is when an new employer/recruiter asks why did you leave your last job, what should I say?


    1. Rob: I would really like to answer your question, but I don't have enough information. I need to know much more. For instance: Is this your first job? What was the nature of the disconnect? Had you been told or warned in advance? If you would like to contact me directly, please email or call me and I will try to help you.

  7. Paul, this was an excellent, well-reasoned approach, with some equally great responses from your audience. I look to you for those "golden rules" that beg reminding today.

    However, given the "new mean" we're working within, it's rare to see this practiced any longer--even when the termination is down to budget or other non-evaluative reasons. This contributes to the fragmented cultures we're now seeing, and contributes to the sentiment that one become more like a shark than a team player. Sad.

    1. As I just responded to someone who contacted me through another medium, the saddest part is that people don't even know that they can choose to do this themselves rather than delegate it.


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