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Especially now: Play nice!

To survive this nasty Covid 19 surge facing businesses of all types, leaders must make decisions that hurt but are necessary.  Keep the employees for the SBA PPP requirements regarding loan forgiveness, or furlough or let good employees go, so they can file unemployment claims?  And what about termination decisions you make affecting just the few you wanted to eliminate anyway?

I am reminded of the term, “Play Nice!” when thinking about and planning for this possible reduction in staff for survival.

What did Mom say when we were kids?

When you were a kid, surely at one time or another, Mom reminded you to “play nice” when you got a bit rambunctious with your friends.   I was reminded about this by Mark Wayman, a friend and reader, who applied this statement to his recruiting environment. He called out those people who focus upon executives who burned bridges with threats and lawsuits, instead of just picking up their toys and moving on after a bad business breakup.

My reminder to departing employees

Over the years, I have reminded departing employees in their exit interview that we should always, always both take the high ground and speak well of each other, since we never know when we will meet again under entirely different circumstances.  And indeed, former employees (not necessarily disaffected or threatening in their departure) have shown up regularly as suppliers and customers in various companies in subsequent months and years.

There is no immediate gain in threats to an employee or by an employee. 

[Email readers, continue here…]   But there certainly is an immediate loss of respect and the start of a series of events that sometimes cannot be stopped.  A threat of a lawsuit results in that person being immediately isolated and sometimes removed – if the employer believes there is enough evidence of misconduct or poor performance in the file to justify immediate termination.

Placing blame after the fact

Short of threats, bad-mouthing a former employer or employee is the worst possible behavior when considering the effect upon the corporate culture if the offender is the employer, and upon the person making the claim if by a former employee.  The point is that no one wins in this kind of word war.  And if it ever gets to a lawsuit, both parties lose a second time as the lawyers take control and costs escalate out of control.

Remember Mom’s advice

Mom’s advice is almost always right – for business as well as for personal relationships.  Never strike out at anyone before first cooling off and thinking about the relative worth of the effort against the long-term gain or loss.  The resulting effort will be surely muted and couched in a way that you’ll avoid retribution.

  • More words of wisdom from The Sage – particularly in these times, when furloughs and layoffs may be imminent – or have already occurred. I’m reminded of the aftermath of the dot com bubble bursting Many slammed the door on their operations and their employees; and walked away. Fortunately, others – several of whom we still have in ABL/Tech-Santa Monica, adapted/pivoted/segued their companies into the new reality. Not only did they survive, but their businesses ultimately thrived, many with the same employees who were involved with the dot com. But one thing is certain, the “new normal” is unlikely to look JUST AS IT DID before “sheltering at home” began in California on March 19th. Those who can lead their companies and their most adaptive employees into it, once again, will have the greatest chance of survival.

  • Dick Reeves

    Thank you Dave for artfully summarizing this very important topic for us. I have been a victim of such a termination of many years ago, but also have been a beneficiary of a boss who took your view. And whose approach I long ago adopted for my own businesses.

    I really look forward to your weekly doses. I am today involved in a startup studio company that is extracting pieces of technology from scientists and engineers and forming new companies of business people around the good pieces that have an attractive market opportunity. Handling the technical people is also an art, because we need their continued involvement in advancing their technology, but do NOT need them to have any significant influence in the leadership and management of the company. Delicate stuff

  • Terry Kay

    Abe Lincoln wrote letters and then first kept them in his desk for quite awhile before – if ever – sending. Counting to 10 is a good start in any heated condition and a longer wait is warranted for large and complicated issues.

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