Message to New Leaders – Bring Your Courage to Work

Have you ever had to fire someone?  Not a very savory task and yet, stuff happens. Jobs are eliminated or people don’t perform as expected and someone has to deliver the bad news.  If you are a new leader, and if that someone is you, you will need to summon your courage to do it properly.

Here’s what can happen if you don’t.

Many years ago I had to terminate a young woman’s employment. She was not performing well and it seemed that she and the job she was assigned was simply not a good fit. It was a very unpleasant and scary proposition.  I liked the woman.  I also knew that she could ill afford to lose her job at that moment.

So I tried to do it gently.  I took her aside and fed her a lot of platitudes to try and smooth away the hurt that was going to come.  I talked and talked.  I ummed and aahed.  I skirted and danced around the issue and took care of my own discomfort first. And, when our interview ended, I was sure that I had delivered the message well.  I felt better anyway

In fact, I was quite pleased with myself, even a little smug…until the next day… when she came to work as usual having no idea that she had been fired the day before.

Of course I had to do it again.  And this time, I had to cut to the chase.   It was very embarrassing for both of us and doubly distressing for her because her embarrassment was heaped on top of the shock of realizing that she no longer had a job. She didn’t deserve that.

If I had used more courage and been more direct with her I might have spared her dignity.  As it was I know she blamed herself for not getting the message even though it was entirely my fault. It was a bad job on my part and I have never forgotten the lesson I took from it.  Here it is:

As a leader, there will be occasions when you will have to navigate through hard times. You will have to deliver bad news.  You will have to confront people and issues to ensure that your company or department continues to move in a positive  direction.  You will sometimes have to stand alone against great opposition.  And you will have to do these things clearly, succinctly and respectfully.  And that means that wherever you go your courage will have to go with you. And by the way, if you ever do have to fire someone, here’s a link that gives you some specific guidelines on how to do it  properly.

Here’s Something to Read on the topic of Courage in the workplace..

Something to think about: When was the last time you had to be brave at work?  What was it like? What was the outcome?  How did it make you feel?



Filed under Leadership Values

2 responses to “Message to New Leaders – Bring Your Courage to Work

  1. Bring your courage to work…great message Gwen

    We may think we have to be “nice to honor people. But to your point about how you delivered that message – isn’t being nice sometimes about us and our stuff? Being straight is what really honors people because to do that we have to trust that they are big enough to hear what we have to say and deal with the consequences. We also have to trust that we are big enough to hear what we don’t want to hear or have to deal with our own consequences.

  2. prissyperfection

    Yes! Telling someone they no longer have a job is no time for protecting our own feelings. As you suggest, it is a time for stepping up and getting the job done with respect and from the perspective that those to whom we deliver the bad news are quite capable of handling whatever it is we have to dish out.

    Thanks for your comments Susan!

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