Thursday, 6 June 2013

Responsibility Bites

Today I had to fire someone. It sucked, even though he deserved it. I'm a nurturer, a problem solver and a compassionate person. It is not in my nature to happily take responsibility for adversely affecting someone's livelihood. However, when I took on a management position, this was one of the unenviable responsibilities that came along with it.

I didn't sleep well last night, knowing I had to pull the rug out from under someone. My morning was filled with anxiety and by the time I turned up to work, on my day off, to have "the meeting" and deliver the bad news, I had worked myself up so much there was a moment when I didn't think I could actually do it.

I anticipated the person concerned would react very badly. He is a volatile character (one of the many reasons behind his dismissal) and I feared he would become aggressively angry in the moment. I was unsure if I would be capable of keeping my cool in the face of his anger. (Much to my annoyance, I have a habit of bursting into tears when I am very angry, or getting a huge rush of adrenalin that makes me shaky and unable to articulate my thoughts).

I've generally found my reaction to extreme anger has not affected my abilities as a manager. I have always believed that I am more effective if I have the respect of the staff and this is more easily achieved with a kind but firm hand than with an aggressive or angry approach. But in the face of someone elses extreme anger, I was not sure how I would react.

As it turned out, all my anxiety was unnecessary in the end anyway. The reaction of the employee concerned was calm and measured. I think he anticipated this outcome. He was mature in his response and listened to the advice I gave him about rectifying the issues that had lead to his dismissal so that he could ensure a different result in his next job. There was no big scene, no walk-out (another scenario I had envisioned as a distinct possibility), no yelling or tears or threats. It was all so much easier than I had expected it to be.

Yet still, although it was necessary and I had to do it for the good of the business and all the other employees, I can't help but recognise that I was just responsible for taking away someone's income. It feels good to resolve an issue that has been disruptive and ongoing, but to know that issue is a person makes it almost entirely unsatisfying.

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