You’re Fired!

Mr. Charles swayed on his seat with his fingers clasped under his chin. Though he was trying to think, his mind was consistently bombarded with unattractive consequence. The biggest question on his mind was “How”. That task was undoubtedly the most difficult one he had performed since his appointment as the Chief Personnel Officer of the Fast Benefit Ltd. He thought, “When Mr. Smart comes in, I will say, ‘please have your seat sir. I called to inform you that your appointment in this organization has been forthwith terminated …’” No, he didn’t feel that was good enough for someone who had served the organization for 25 years.

Mr. Smart was a company driver in his late 50s. He was becoming sluggish, unreliable and less suitable for the fast paced activities of the organization. However, considering the way Smart always complained about his inability to support his wife and nine children, how would Charles now compound the problem by communicating his disengagement? To further complicate the matter, Smart’s wife had been in and out of the hospital because of an ailment. Someone had to give him the news and it was Charles’ unfortunate lot to do so, which he had already accepted. However, the big question was how he would present the information?

Words are like vehicles that convey emotions. When conversations are over-charged with emotions, they mostly become difficult to manage. For a moment, think of a conversation you need to have with someone that you are not looking forward to. Do you have to tell your mum you broke her favorite dish? Do you have to tell your dad that you crashed his car? Do you have to break a relationship? There are several conversations we would rather avoid. The easiest way to deal with them is to avoid them, right? Wrong! Here is why:

1. It is misleading: delaying or avoiding important but difficult conversations is very misleading. You lead the person involved to believe that all is well when trouble is looming. If you think your friend will be embarrassed if you tell her that she’s got oil stain on her dress, guess what will happen when she discovers it at night after walking the length and breadth of the city? Most times, avoiding speaking when we should eventually hurts people more than if we had spoken to them. Since people have no way of reading our minds, it’s better to tell them how we feel; of course, the way we say it matters. Imagine if Mr. Charles fails to inform Mr. Smart that his services were no longer needed. He would have discovered in a most unpleasant way.

2. It is unfair: when you fail to have difficult conversations, you deny people the opportunity to improve. If you fail to call colleagues’ attention to their faults because you don’t want to “hurt their feelings”, the consequences may be far more devastating.

3. It affects productivity and efficiency: when you are in a situation where the performance of one person affects the productivity of every other person, it is wise that you have the conversation. If you don’t, you will sacrifice the greater good on the platform of insincerity. Imagine what would happen if, for sentimental reasons, people are left to perform functions for which they are not competent? Quality would drop, business would be lost and more people would lose. Imagine if you remain in relationships that sap your energy and life instead of the ones that refresh you. When you fail to have difficult conversations, you avoid temporary responsibility just to encounter long-lasting future difficulty.

4. It kills the morale of team members: it is very possible that several people are making good inputs while one person is drawing them back. It is unfair to allow one person’s weakness to make other people seem incompetent. Of course, the solution is not always to get rid of the person. Sometimes, all you have to do is call their attention to it, while some other times, you may need to move them into another department where they can function better.

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