Laying off the wrong person

April 8, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off

The head of a management consulting firm writes on his Harvard Business Review blog that companies sometimes lay off relative underperformers simply because nobody understands exactly what they do.

When the wrong person is fired, it hurts everyone involved — the person and his or her company. There’s a better way to solve this problem and a worse way. The worse way first: If you’re an employee and want to protect yourself, you can do two things:

1. Be excellent. The more effectively you deliver on your goals the less likely you’ll be let go. Employers value productivity.

2. Be confusing. The more ambiguously you achieve your goals the more difficult it will be to fire you. Employers fear uncertainty.

There are two problems with this. One, it might backfire. Being too opaque could get you fired, especially if you’re not quite as excellent as you think. And two, while this strategy might help you as an individual, it hurts the company which, eventually, will hurt you as an individual.

We got ourselves into this economic mess in part because leaders didn’t understand what was going on in their own companies. While tying a Gordian knot may help individuals keep their jobs, untying it will help the businesses stay viable. That’s the critical challenge facing industry today.

The full post here.

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