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The best bosses don’t fire people… but should they?

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Last week at a TED talk, leadership expert Simon Sinek said great bosses are those who don’t lay off employees when the going gets tough.

“A company is a modern-day tribe. Hiring someone for your company is akin to having a child,” Sinek said during the presentation.

“If you have hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? We would never do it. Then why do we consider laying off people inside our organisations?”

Sinek argued layoffs destroys a company’s culture, and used US-based company Next Jump, which sends employees for training to improve rather than letting them go, as an example.

I understand Sinek’s sentiments but I can’t say I am in his corner with this one.

Yes, getting fired sucks – not just for the employee in question but for their team as well. And while laying off employees is hardly the go-to solution for many leaders (or at least that’s what I hope), in some situations, it may well be the only solution.

There will be occasions where an employee’s shortfalls can be mitigated through support from leadership or training opportunities. It might even be the case where an internal move, be it to another office or division, could be the answer to a staff member who isn’t adding value in their current capacity.

We all know it is easier to train or re-train someone so they are better contributors to the organisation than it is to have them fit into a culture they were not built for.

But my question is what happens if any employee – someone who, for all purposes of this argument, hasn’t been disruptive or is a model employee with all the right skill sets – is truly and thoroughly a bad fit for the organisation?

I suppose that is one of the biggest challenges faced by leaders, and just as much, by HR practitioners – finding that balance between building a culture and filling it with employees who are able to support and work towards the company vision, while making sure the organisation remains above the red line.

In a separate TED talk, Sinek himself actually seems to have answered that question: “The goal is not just to hire people who need a job; it’s to hire people who believe what you believe.

“I always say that, you know, if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

Image: Shutterstock

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