I’m the de facto second in command of 20 people, which means with a boss that travels frequently I am often in charge. My role also means I manage millions of dollars each year in capital projects and directly or indirectly seven figures in gross revenue for our firm. My office group ranges in age from 23 years old to retired (over 60, working part time). Most people I work with do their role and do it well and for that I’m thankful. Like every place though, we have one or two people who aren’t so good. They are slow, do mediocre work, they rub people the wrong way or maybe all three. For whatever reason they are still on board and we have to work with these people which is rarely fun. As a company leader though, I do my best to keep productivity high and attitudes positive as I try to work with everyone in their role.
Unfortunately, for the good of the company, sometimes you have to bring the Hammer and be the bad guy. The funny thing is, whoever is the recipient of the Hammer almost always has it coming. They come in to work late. They make excuses for their crappy performance. Their work product sucks. The Hammer doesn’t come down on those who do a good job. Fuck-ups happen, no doubt about it, but we can deal with those, even those that cost good money. If you’re overall attitude, performance and role is of sufficient enough value and it’s a one time deal, no biggie -our investment in you as an employee will pay dividends. But when you fuck-up over and over, aren’t good at your job, cause projects to go over budget or make other people fall on their sword to hide the fact you suck, you deserve the Hammer.
Hammertime happened today. I have been brought in to clean up a mess in the making. No one’s fault really, just a project that got off on the wrong foot with no clear direction and a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Project was headed off track and I am known in my company for getting shit done, coming in on budget and making us look good. To that end, the individual who is known for derailing shit on a regular basis and was heavily involved in this future shit-storm had the rug pulled out from underneath him. He’s been on thin ice for awhile, and it was entirely at my discretion whether to continue using this underperformer to the detriment of the project and client, or whether to kick him off and basically let him whither on the vine (since other people won’t use him either). I chose the latter. Confrontation in this manner with my peers doesn’t come naturally, but is certainly something I’ve come to understand as a needed skill. Dude is roughly 20 years my senior, but never progressed past where I was 12 years ago, but hides it fairly well.
I was as diplomatic as I could be about his performance and why he was off the team, but was very, very blunt. Leadership and doing the right thing for the bigger picture sometimes just needs to be done. At work as it is at home. Even if outside your comfort zone, it separates the men from the boys. Sometimes it means getting in front of your own mistakes and taking your medicine. I’ve never been one to not admit my mistakes and doing whatever I could to correct them. In this case, I was the Hammer bringer and what is a true show of beta character, dude smiled as I told him the truth, slunk away and took the rest of the day as sick time instead of doubling down and putting in extra effort. I understand it must have been hard on him, not being handled with political correct kid gloves, but for fuck’s sake, dude is mid-50’s. Stop being such a pussy.
Firing someone or laying the wood like I did here isn’t something I have to do very often. The political correct bullshit most of us have to deal with in our work environment is pretty silly, as everyone beats around the bush instead of saying what they mean. With unlawful termination lawsuits, unemployment to be paid and all that stuff, it seems like companies are less likely to fire people unless the work isn’t there (layoffs). Sometimes you simply make their value, or lack thereof, known and maybe some other company will end up hiring them when they start blasting off resumes.
Most people who get hired where I work are vetted in some way and we have a long string of successful hires here. We also have an excellent work environment and both of those are supported by our ultra-low turnover (I’ve been here about 4 years I think and in that time only two people quit – one because, like our man here today, was on thin ice and probably would have been fired- and the other one started his own unrelated business which is doing well). Sometimes people get through the vetting process, or we as a company are simply so desperate for assistance due to workload, you aren’t left with many choices. This was the case here. It happens. I hope we admit our mistake and move on. I won’t get to be the Hammer there if he needs to be let go, and am glad, since being the Hammer – while sometimes necessary – isn’t really that fun. Even when the nail deserves it.
Bottom line is, sometimes confrontation is necessary for the greater good at home and at work. It’s uncomfortable for both sides, but it’s usually worse if you pussyfoot around real issues and sugar coat them. Bite the bullet, make clear and concise directives, and move on. Better than letting a cancerous situation linger.