“Benefits of telling the truth”
Why is it that everybody but you can see that the director of (fill in the blank) at your company should be fired? He ticks off customers, berates his staff to the point that they’re afraid to speak up and the product he’s in charge of stinks. He needs to go.
Well, you’re probably like a lot of managers–afraid to tell the truth. The truth is that this guy is just not working out. And even though you’ve had multiple talks with him with no result, you need to do something more drastic–tell him it’s time to move on. Easier said than done, right?
The benefits of being straight about what’s staring you in the face are numerous. In this case, you’d not only regain the trust and support of other staff, but business and productivity would improve.
So why the hesitancy? The truth is a frightful thing. According to the authors of Absolute Honesty, among the eight great fears of telling the truth is fear of retribution. When it comes to letting people go I think the biggee is fear of hurting others people’s feelings or offending someone.
But is that any way to run a business? What if a manager of a sports team “never told players who weren’t cutting it that they had to go and why because he didn’t want to hurt their feelings?” ask authors Larry Johnson and Bob Phillips.
“It’s ludicrous to imagine. The manager’s job is to weed out the inferior players and promote the superior ones. If it hurts people’s feelings, too bad. It comes with the territory.”
Of course he or she would do it in a way to minimize hurt. And they are not suggesting that you’d tell someone what you think of them or what their faults are just because you think it’s the truth. But if you have good reason and it is your business, you need to find the right way to tell them–for the good of the project, the business and everyone involved–including the person who’s not working out.
Fear of change is another reason people shirk from telling the truth. This can be the case when it comes to letting someone go.
“People always prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty,” the book says. “It’s always easier to stay where we are than to move somewhere else.”
There’s also the fear of being disliked. Sure, we all want to be liked and accepted by others. But you’re doing at the risk of a lot more.
The fear of losing face–especially if you brought the guy on board–is a powerful motive for not telling the truth. And if your worry about what others think of you is so great, it will keep you from telling the truth and doing what needs to be done.
Whatever is driving your fear, remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said about facing fear: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
But you don’t have to do it alone. If you’ve got someone who needs to go, you do need to come to grips with telling them. But you can alleviate the pain for them and some of the fears you have by offering this employee a way to transition out of the company. You could give them assistance in getting re-employed faster by bringing in an outside consultant. Someone who could help them identify their next step and develop the skills to market themselves.
Not only would you be helping the employee, but your staff will think highly of you. You also lessen the chances that the departing employee will be resentful and possibly want retribution–one of those other fears that might be keeping you from doing what needs to be done.