With the growth in workforce and high demand for talent we introduced Talent Acquisition as a specialization in HR. With increased volatility and economic fluctuations, do organisations need to have specialized teams for Talent Separation? More than that I am debating if Firing is a necessary skill to be developed?
“I don’t know what to do with Kumar, results are poor but he seems to be clocking the hours. His team is happy to have him as a supervisor” I told my boss sounding confused. “Is it a capability problem or intent problem” he asked me in return. “If it’s a capability problem, coach him, if it’s intent you know what to do” he said and walked off. That was the first time I got an input on how to evaluate team members before taking a call on them. But 15 years since then that clarity still eludes me when it comes to decisions related to firing. Leaders and organisations brag about talent as the heart of their strategy. But, seldom do they follow it up consistently.
Multiple situations force us to think of our own colleagues as dispensable. Some of these are unavoidable, many contextually right. Few of these we do to keep our job and most often to cover our own lack of timely intervention.
Let me list the likely situations which result in forced exits of colleagues, some are obvious and some strange:
I have listed what my limited experience has allowed me to remember. I am sure you can add more to the list.
Firing like hiring is a special skill. It’s not something you use every day but something you keep in the repository for a rainy day. I once witnessed one of my colleagues asking in a job interview if she had fired anybody in her career. She was stunned by the question, but to give the right ‘interview answer’ she went on to explain how she motivated her team. As a result everybody always performed under her and never had to fire anybody. She was promptly rejected. When I quizzed my colleague he said, “first of all, it’s difficult to believe that all team members perform all the time. Second firing is a necessary skill, if I am hiring a manager I want somebody who brings that too” he quipped.
Unlike setting goals, engaging, reviewing & directing which are required on a daily basis, one rarely uses firing skills. So, why is it critical I wondered. “Have you ever fired anybody” he asked? Those days I was a rookie and my boss used to do it for me, I said “no, but I think I can”. I felt if It was the need of the hour I could do it too. All I need to do is to communicate with clarity to the colleague at a private place without violating his/her dignity. But I was wrong, I experienced much later in my life how challenging it is to fire your own colleague.
Few things one goes through during the firing period is worth summarising
So, what are the essentials to be good at firing people? Is it a skill or Mindset? First thing you need to have is authority. When you are in in a seat of power the necessary responsibility to make the call and the superiority mindset to fire would come with it. In todays and tomorrow’s world every manager needs to develop this mindset. Firing your team members is part of your career development, whether you like it or not. This Mindset cannot be developed by attending any course but comes through years of dealing with volatile situations. Ability to rationalise is another essential trait for people to be comfortable while firing colleagues.
Many times, it isn’t about right or wrong, but purely about the context or circumstance. Most often people do it because they have to. For that very reason, your ability to rationalise to yourself gives the strength to do it without guilt. Yes, Karma can come back at you, but holding back for that reason can render you weak. I was once procrastinating a decision to fire one of my team members. Hence, my boss told me if I didn’t, he would do it himself. That did the trick and I promptly executed his order to save myself the embarrassment.
One’s tough image also allows them to execute the firing orders at ease. One of my friends was in his notice period with his employer, his successors asked him to fire one of their senior employees. They felt his strong personality would convince the senior employee to resign without much fuss. Furthermore, for the rest of the organisation his participation would serve as an endorsement to the decision.
Firing is a mindset which can become a skill. Espceially for people who can rationalise that as an additional aspect of the job.
Imagine just like Talent Acquisition departments if we had Talent Separation Departments. You think they would be an aspiring department to work for?
As far as all the people whom I have fired so far, will you accept if I say it wasn’t me? But the moment!
Kamal is the Co-Founder of Xpheno, a specialist talent solutions company that offers direct hire, IT staff augmentation and engineering professional services. Xpheno brings people and companies together, to contribute to the creation of high-performing specialist workforce. Kamal holds a Bachelor degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University.