July 2nd, 2012
I fired a man today.
Officially, his employment ended following a “terminable infraction” according to our employee handbook. Unofficially, I was personally betrayed.
Previous small infractions made by this employee over several years had been documented, addressed and resolved amicably. Each time, I felt this young man was gaining better understanding of his employer’s expectations and growing as an employee and individual.
His growth was not stymied by physical or mental ability. Only an uneven temperament adversely affected consistent quality performance. I attributed this to youth. I hoped, with training, mentoring and time his character would be molded. I envisioned him eventually becoming a key man who would take responsibility for delighting clients with quality installations and that he would provide me with profits as he received financial gain and emotional satisfaction from a vital role in my company.
During the winter we discussed his ambitions. We agreed he was ready to move up from a laborer to a foreman position, where he would lead a crew. He received a pay raise, new uniforms and business cards in his new role.
We know the most difficult part of any job is starting and finishing. In between is easy. So, we have an experienced foreman teach a new foreman our tried and true methods to get a project off to a good start and how to finish. This includes: How to manage the project and his crew; How to communicate with clients and management; and How to succeed as a foreman.
He clearly understood the importance of his new position. He was given tasks and projects within his capabilities and assigned projects for the most understanding of clients. His first projects showed potential. He had success.
He also had small failures. These failures were minor, to be expected and proved a need for additional training which was given.
This past week he was given charge of the first project after that additional training. He was supervised for the start of the project and performed admirably. During the project the client received a visit from their salesman, requested additional work and received an addendum to their contract for consideration.
Yesterday, the client scheduled to visit with me. I presumed they would pay for their completed project and review the details of the addendum and I wasn’t wrong. I only wish that was the only reason for us to meet.
What this old friend and frequent client told me turned my stomach and changed the future of a young man.
After her salesman left, the young man approached her to perform the additional work she was interested in having done on her home “on the side” for half the price quoted by his employer. And he did so in front of one of his colleagues.
I have been told I am good with words, but I cannot describe to you my emotions when this young man I had mentored and trained for years betrayed me to pursue immediate personal gain over the good of his employer and his own future.
The “termination” went surprisingly smoothly. Cool heads prevailed. No effort was made to deny the transgression. A full admission along with a disturbing claim by the young man that he didn’t think he had done anything wrong confirmed my actions to end his employment. I don’t question that I did the right thing for my company, but that does not make me feel any better.
No I question my ability to judge character. I question my mentoring and training procedures. I question the value of my rewards and benefits packages. I question my ability to lead. I question my capabilities as an employer.
I fired a man today.