Can You Fire Like George Clooney


I love George Clooney. He’s charming, debonair, handsome, smart and, oh yes, a good actor too. That is apparent in spades, especially when his role is the total opposite of charming George. In the 2009 film “Up in the Air,” George plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate HR exec who enjoys living out of a suitcase while traveling around the country firing people. He’s a total slime-ball; his heartless joy in firing people is the antithesis of how most managers feel about firing.

Have you ever postponed letting an employee go? Maybe you held off because you thought you didn’t have time to hire a replacement? Maybe you hoped that by some miracle the situation would change? Maybe there was some personal sympathy for the employee that prevented you from lowering the boom? There are many reasons managers find to kick that can down the road.

You are not alone. I have met, worked for and recruited some of the best managers I know. Firing is a task that’s right up there on the “prefer not to do” list. Just like cleaning the garage, you postpone it until the car doesn’t fit anymore!

My golden rule is Hire Slow and Fire Fast. Once you know an employee isn’t working out, whether it’s three weeks, three months or three years, pull the trigger. Here are four excellent reasons you should act quickly . . .

  1. Boost Morale – The underperforming employee is affecting the morale of more than just you. Employees who are doing their jobs like to work with fellow employees who are doing the same. Great salespeople who hit their quota on a consistent basis want to be with other great salespeople. Further, when employees see non-performance tolerated, it’s very demoralizing and can make them question being in a company that condones poor performance. I certainly hear about this when interviewing sales and marketing people looking to make a job change. I believe it’s the same in all departments–operations, finance, engineering, etc. Good employees want to be surrounded by people who are as dedicated and talented as they are – plain and simple!
  2. Employees May Surprise You While I can’t say it’s ideal to have temporary holes in your organization, it can spark some creative thinking about your open position and your current staff. Many times when firing causes such a hole in a department, employees are asked to temporarily pick up the slack and take on additional responsibilities. I have often seen employees called on to perform tasks they don’t usually do and end up doing a better job than expected. You now have an employee who can possibly fill your opening. This can be a tremendous opportunity for you and for them. They’re excited about their new responsibilities and you may have an easier time replacing them.

  3. Rethink the Job A big silver lining to a hole in your organization is the opportunity to rethink that job. Maybe the responsibilities can be shifted across your organization. Maybe you can create another position that would work better in your group. This is a perfect time for you to go back to the drawing board. It may just be that there’s a new role waiting to be created, or that the vacancy is absolutely the correct one. Either way, allow yourself the leeway to re-examine the current roles and how they line up to achieve your tactical and strategic goals. After this assessment, you can confirm or change your strategy. That’s always good.

  4. Make Room for a Winner Most managers rank the task of recruiting and hiring new employees low on their scale of tasks they like to do. But I don’t. I think it’s invigorating to meet potential employees, sell your company and the employment opportunity. Look for a replacement who not only can do the job, but who also has a winning attitude, a good career strategy, and can make a real contribution to your organization.

Everybody I know loves George. What’s your favorite Clooney movie? O Brother, Where Art Thou? Oceans Eleven? Syriana? Click here to share.

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