Firing Idiots: A Commentary on Management

I was looking around for a topic and ran across a blog entitled Phil for Humanity. Written by a guy named Phil B. he covers a number different topics. His post called Firing Idiots struck a note with me because, as an employee, Phil points out some of the failings of management as well as, in my opinion, HR. Phil goes off on a fellow employee who does not seem to be able to do their work, explain there work or think through their work. They then bother productive employees to help get a solution or some guidance and even then can’t seem to get it. We have all had coworkers, or employees, and even bosses like this. I know I have! Yet nothing seems to get done about it.

Phil asks the question “Don’t managers see the uselessness, counter-productivity, and extreme slowness in accomplishing basic tasks from certain individuals in their teams? I am beginning to think that managers are blind to these problems; because they either do not care, are not looking at their people as the source of their problems, think some productivity is better than none especially if hiring a replacement is too difficult, or think firing someone is not worth the hassle in a large corporation.” My answer to Phil is “all of the above.” As a consultant I run into this issue all the time and have many times asked the question “Why is this person still here?”

I will add a few more reasons to Phil’s list for why nothing gets done and unproductive, or even toxic, employees are left on the payroll:

  1. There are no stated goals for the person to achieve.
  2. There are no measures of productivity or “success” in place, so how do you hold someone to a standard that does not exist?
  3. The “idiot” person is in a protected category and the manager is afraid of firing them for fear of being sued. Because of the absence of 1 & 2
  4. The performance appraisal system sucks and is geared toward just “showing up” and the manager gave them a good rating for that.
  5. The person is related to someone higher up in the company.
  6. They don’t want to pay unemployment (like that is more expensive than the drag on productivity and morale.)

All of these issues are fixable. People like Phil should not have to put up with nonproductive fellow employees. HR can lead the charge by making sure managers are trained on proper performance appraisal, coaching and counseling and goal setting. HR needs to insure that proper measures of productivity are in place and that proper documentation of success or lack of success is used. HR needs to realize and tell managers that it is OK to fire people for lack of performance even if they are in a protected category. Nothing in any law requires a company to keep a poor performing employee! (A union contract may be a different story.) HR needs to grow a backbone in some companies.

I will end my rant with a portion of Phil’s rant “…I wish I could fire idiots. Right there on the spot. Wouldn’t it be nice to say, “You’re a useless and unproductive idiot! You’re fired!” The company that I work for would be so much better off for it. Morale would be higher. Productivity would increase.

That might be fun sometime, but as a human resources professional I would exhibit a bit more decorum than that… although I might be thinking it underneath.

What about you? How do you deal with stupid employees?

3 thoughts on “Firing Idiots: A Commentary on Management”

  1. This was a somewhat helpful article in motivating employees to be more productive, however, I was distracted by all the spelling and grammatical errors. You should have someone proofread your work before posting an article.

  2. Great post, Mike. Let me add a couple of more reasons from my experience.

    No one has trained the boss in key boss skills like assessing willingness and ability, sharing clear expectations, following up and delivering consequences.

    The boss is not actually evaluated on the performance of the team.

    The boss is not allowed to fire. Only someone from HR can fire.

    One reason that I sell many of my Working Supervisor's Support Kits is that we throw so many people into a boss's job without giving them the tools to use or even, really, defining what their job is.

    I have to confess, too, that I have a visceral reaction to the post you quoted. It's easy to snipe. And it's easy to rant about not firing non-performers. I would want to know what the writer has done to deal with the situation. Has he talked to the boss? Has he approached the offender? Is it possible that he is the only competent one in the work group?

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