You might be an entrepreneur if…you’ve felt a sense of relief when an employee has quit because now you don’t have to lay them off.
I remember an SNL skit from about 20 years ago that featured two cruel bosses who made a bet as to who could fire the most employees the fastest as a badge of bossly manliness. One of them ended up selling his soul to the devil in order to win, and the devil enabled him to fire employees at breakneck pace. The skit portrayed bosses as uncaring, malevolent jerks who loved giving orders and firing people as though they were a pirate captains getting drunk and making people walk the plank.
At the time, it was a funny skit. But I’ve remembered it several times since I became a “boss” and have thought how bizarre the skit was compared to my personal reality. I couldn’t then and still can’t imagine taking pleasure in firing someone. Anyone who has had to fire someone knows it’s just about one of the worst experiences you can have. I don’t watch The Office anymore, but in the first season there was an episode where Michael, the boss, has been ordered by headquarters to fire one employee from his office. But Michael wants so badly to be liked by his employees and is so afraid of confrontation that he tries to role play the process with another employee, Jim Halpert, in order to practice. Jim sits in Michael’s seat in Michael’s office and says “I’m really sorry I’m going to have to let you go, and it’s purely budgetary, and it’s not personal.”
Michael immediately screams “AHHH! I’M GOING TO KILL MYSELF!”
Jim, stunned, can only quietly respond “Wow.”
“I’M GOING TO KILL MYSELF AND IT’S YOUR FAULT!”
“That’s an overreaction…” Jim tries to say, but Michael clearly has his own ideas about how his employees would react to being let go.
As hilarious as this portion of The Office was, it is far closer to reality than the SNL skit. I’ve had to let employees go because I couldn’t afford to keep them, and I’ve had to fire employees for non-performance (thankfully I never had to fire anyone for anything worse than that). But no matter the case, I never enjoyed it, and it has never been easy. And that’s why when an employee has come to me to tell me they were going to leave of their own volition, it has often been quite a relief and while outside I’ve been saying “Well, I’m bummed and sorry to see you go but you need to do what’s best for you and your family,” inside I’ve been thinking “Whew! Thank goodness, now I don’t have to lay this person off.”
Over the years it has gotten easier for me to both fire and lay off employees, not because my heart has become calloused, but because I’ve come to understand from repeat, firsthand experience that not letting people go when you can’t pay them, and not firing people who deserve to be fired, doesn’t help anyone in the long run and actually is a disservice to everyone involved with your business, from yourself to your clients, your employees (including the ones whose jobs you are preserving), your family, and the families of your employees, etc. Understanding this makes it easier to do what needs to be done, but it doesn’t make one feel any better about it.Liked it? Share it!