A few days ago, I was driving from one meeting to the next and found myself with time to stop at a fast food restaurant for another cup of coffee. As I made my way from the counter to the table with my purchase, a manager (I can only assume from what she said) came around the corner and announced to her workers, “Well, that’s that. She won’t work here again nor will she set foot on this property.” A couple of the workers cheered in response. I don’t know the reason for the termination, but I made a guess from the reaction of this individual’s former coworkers that she may have been difficult to get along with. And it made me a little sad to think about how much this exchange may have cost the restaurant – not just the cost to hire and train a replacement, but the cost in terms of human interaction; the costs that are harder to measure. Most likely, the individual who was fired will tell her family and friends about the experience and advise them to never eat at this place again. This place was a national chain and that ill will could carry over to other locations. Maybe her family and friends will stop frequenting all locations of this national brand. Maybe it will prevent them from applying for jobs at this brand. Maybe they will tell her story to others outside their group and word will spread about the awfulness or unfairness of this manager and restaurant.
There are many reasons to terminate someone’s employment: theft, non-compliance with safety rules, failure to complete projects or serve customers, etc. I have little argument with those. What concerns me is when there is some kind of disagreement or misunderstanding between people that doesn’t get resolved, that festers and grows, that spreads beyond the two people to include the team, that makes everyone at work miserable until someone is terminated and commanded to never set foot on the property again!
Let’s take action before it’s too late.
Be willing to listen. Listening for understanding is hard work and takes time and practice. It is well worth the effort.
Be willing to problem solve. Ask for help in understanding their behavior and then look for a solution. Say something like, “I noticed that the report due to me on Tuesday morning wasn’t in my inbox. This is the third time this month that it’s been late. Help me understand why this part of the job isn’t getting done.” Be specific about the problem. Avoid judgement words like: lazy, careless, stupid. Avoid absolutes such as: always and never.