Wanna buy a bridge?
New Jersey Gov Chris Christie (R) fired one of his top aides today over a bridge scandal. Actually it was a traffic jam scandal. You can read the linked story for detail but let's be clear: there are few worse things you can do in the Garden State than intentionally back up traffic.
Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown tweets the firings of Dallas police officers for a variety of offenses. That's right: he fires you, then tweets about it.
He has a lot of followers too.
What's going on?
Are these outliers or is the public sector showing signs of taking tough action while the private sector watches? I'm not sure, but I know this: sometimes firing is the right solution.
The old maxim rings true: no one ever wished they waited just a little bit longer before they fired someone. We wait too long.
Obviously things like customer service and productivity suffer when we're slow to remove bad apples but something more insidious and damaging occurs as well: morale suffers.
We don't talk much about morale today as some think its a bit passé, but morale is just engagement spelled with an e. And if you retain bad actors – people who need to be fired – longer than reasonable, no matter how you spell it the organization suffers.
No one enjoys the act of terminating employment [Ed: we terminate “employment” not “people”] but when the situation warrants moving decisely and clearly communicating same are what's necessary.
Most people will never be near the termination point in their career. So this solution need not come up often or prematurely, but when something does happen – abuse, violence, fraud, etc. – action has to be firm and swift.
Instead of avoiding the topic as many firms do I believe its healthy to be open about the fact that the employment relationship is both a temporal and contigent one.
Employees constantly vote with their feet – call it the flip side of engagement – and that's normal. Yet employers too should be clear about the boundaries and expectations, ie., the things that if performed could cost you your job.
Our reluctance to be up front about standards and values hurts the larger workforce. When the edges aren't clear people sometimes skate off and in doing so force the ultimate response, loss of job. In many ways we can trace egregious behavior back to unclarity of values. A sense of vagueness about what counts.
Do your people the favor of being clear about what it takes to stay employed.
Otherwise they may end up trying to sell you a bridge.