A Little Pain Now Or a Lot of Pain Later (A Note to the Sales Manager)

It’s difficult to fire people. It’s difficult to do something that you know is going to cause another human being pain. Which is why you should do everything in your power to make certain it is truly your last resort. And you should make sure no one is ever surprised that they are being let go.

All that said, it is still sometimes necessary to fire people. But a little pain now is better than a lot of pain for a long time into your future.

Why It’s Painful for You

It’s uncomfortable to let people go. You know that firing them is going to hurt them. Their feelings are going to be hurt. They are going to be embarrassed and their pride will be damaged. They have to tell their friends and family that they lost their job. More still, they are faced with a new financial problem.

All of these factors make it tough to release someone. And because all of these factors are true, it should be difficult. But these factors cannot be allowed to prevent you from doing what you know must be done. Doing so may be unpleasant, but not doing so will be more unpleasant.

You Are Responsible

You have a responsibility to your organization.

You have the responsibility for producing financial results, and you are responsible for ensuring that you use your budget to produce those result. That means you can’t afford to carry people that aren’t producing. Not releasing an employee that should be fired for not producing results means you will later deal with the unpleasantness of missing your goals or perhaps even failing your clients.

You also have a duty to the rest of the people on your team. You put their results and their rewards at risk by allowing some people to not produce. By allowing someone that isn’t producing to remain on your team, you put the results of the rest of the team at risk. And you send them the signal that it is acceptable to not produce.

You also have a duty that I believe is greatly underappreciated. That is the duty to protect your culture from anything or anyone that would destroy it. Negative people are sometimes the easiest people to remove from your team because they are so negative. You can’t wait to get rid of them. At the same time, they can also be the most difficult people to release because you know that you are going to have to deal with their nastiness and their negativity.

You have another responsibility too. Jack Welch used to make the case that allowing an underperformer to stay employed is to do them a terrible disservice. By carrying them year after year, the underperformer does nothing to prepare for being released. They may not even be aware of their poor performance. Then, when business gets tough and you are required to make the hard calls, they are fired without warning. And they are completely unprepared.

It is unfair. And you have a duty to do better.

This Isn’t the Apprentice

Donald Trump makes firing people look easy. Of course, he is firing celebrities that are going back to their lives after being removed from a game show. I doubt that even Trump would be so callous and matter of fact in real life (even though I am certain he wouldn’t disagree with much that I have written here).

It’s difficult to fire people. But it is a necessary part of leading a team. It’s unpleasant. But it’s more unpleasant to allow the person to continue in a role in which they are failing.


Have you ever been fired? How long before you were released did you know things weren’t going well?

What do you owe underperformers before you release them?

Do you treat those that you have to release like you would want one of your loved ones to be treated?

What are the options you should explore before firing someone?

Have you ever carried an employee for longer than you should have? Was it more unpleasant to keep them than it would have been to live through the short pain of releasing them?

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