Wednesday, April 11, 2012

So What? I'm Still a Rock Star

I recently read a post about a person who’d been fired 3 times despite excellent performance reviews. You can read about it here.

Dave Ryan and I were discussing this a few weeks ago during our regular catch up and decided to write about it as our next project social topic.  You can read Dave's take on rock stars in general over at HR Official.

A few years back I managed the functional side of a large global software implementation project.  There were nine process teams scatter throughout Europe and the US and each process team had one solution expert from my team.  In all the extended team included 109 people and I depended on my solution experts to keep everything moving in the right direction.

One of the people on my team had a challenging personality but they were working on something really hard and getting it done.  There were others in the team who were easier to get along with but they couldn’t have done this particular job. 

It never occurred to me to ask this person to resign. 

Yes, I had to invest some time smoothing ruffled feathers in the team as well as providing guidance about behavior but I considered this part of my job.  And they ended up being a real team player, mentoring others and patiently helping them understand highly complex topics.

So when I read this post I asked myself:

•    Instead of telling someone not to hog credit, why not give them credit?
•    Instead of reining people in, why not give them more responsibility?
•    How the heck is it easier to fire someone than help them work more smoothly with others?

It is definitely true that skills are not everything.  Attitude matters, interpersonal skills matter, and cultural fit matters.  A good manager must put the greater good of the team ahead of their own comfort to deal with people who threaten team performance, even to the point of removing them from the team if necessary.  But that shouldn’t be the starting position.

Now, this story has several strange points, such as the fact that the person wasn’t fired but asked to resign.  That just smacks of missing information, without which we can’t really judge the case fairly.  It could be that this person was impossible to get along with, received every chance in the world, and was finally asked to resign rather than being fired out of respect for their otherwise good performance.

But let’s say they were fired as the author suggests because it was easier for the manager than dealing with the personality issues.  What is HR’s responsibility in this situation?

What would you have done?


  1. It seems more often than not we all follow the path of least resistance, although it may not be the correct path. Me, I have never shied away from confrontation, especially when it is not personal, it just business.

  2. I believe once the organization decides to hire someone they have a significant commitment to make it work. It may be that 1 month after the hire you realize it was a bad decision. I don't believe in just evaluating the best results for the company and deciding to fire them. You might want to figure out why you made a bad decision and improve the system for the future.

    But then work with this person to make them successful. If they are willing to make serious efforts to provide value and improve I believe it is the organizations responsibility to put in the effort. If that means they have to change jobs that acceptable, to me. It wouldn't be the first place to start. If they are unsuited to produce at the level required and unwilling to try and improve then I have no problem letting them go.


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