Why You’re a Jerk for Firing a Longtime Employee

Comrade   June 3, 2016   Comments Off on Why You’re a Jerk for Firing a Longtime Employee

This article is in response to a story on FORTUNE entitled “Why You’re Not a Jerk for Firing a Longtime Employee”. I happened to disagree which is why I named this “Why You’re a Jerk for Firing a Longtime Employee.” Here is the question posed in the article.

“Frank has been with us for more than 20 years. He works in the warehouse and has done a good job for us. I like him. But, to be honest, for the work he performs I could easily replace him someone younger and… cheaper. Would it be wrong to let him go?”

THEIR ADVICE

You can tell from the opening where columnist  is going with this.

“And the costs are rising, right? You’re increasing Frank’s salary every year, at least by the cost of living. And that’s not all. You’re contributing to his healthcare and his 401(K). He’s earning more and more vacation each day that he’s working for you. And as he gets older, you’re increasing the risk that he will cost your company more – maybe he gets injured or needs financial assistance because he’s not putting enough away for his retirement. Sure, he’s got experience. He’s proven. He’s a known card. But he’s costing you. And you know you can get the same job done by someone else for less money.”

Notice that much of the reasoning is directly related to Frank’s increasing age, which is illegal discrimination.

Actually, no you’re not an awful person. I am not encouraging that you should discriminate based on your employee’s age.

Yes you are Gene, don’t bullshit me. Your first two concerns are health care costs which are known to rise as people get older and 401(k) contributions which is a retirement account. Older people are particularly concerned about 401(k) contributions. The vacation time is irrelevant to the issue, unless of course you’re planning to screw his younger replacement out of vacation time. Now that Gene has said he’s not encouraging age discrimination, let’s go back a bit in the article…

And as he gets older, you’re increasing the risk that he will cost your company more – maybe he gets injured or needs financial assistance because he’s not putting enough away for his retirement

Gene is literally saying his increasing age is a factor in the decision, and then cites 2 age-connected concerns. Injury and retirement. Don’t discriminate on age, wink-wink, nod-nod, he he he.

Still, the points are valid and Frank doesn’t have the resources to fight your on-staff legal team for 3 years in court so who cares about the law. Shocked? This is how many business people actually think. Breaking the law and its consequences are nothing more than a cost-benefit-risk analysis.

Age discrimination is against the law. However, your job is to make the decisions. The hard decisions that are necessary to grow your business and ensure it as a going concern for years to come.

The “however” signifies a shift to the justification for violating the age discrimination law. The issue is just reframed. It’s not illegal, it’s a “hard decision”.

Why? Because you have employees, customers, partners, suppliers and everyone’s family members (including yours) that rely on you and your company for their livelihoods. And their interests should rise above the interest of any one specific person.

The irony is just painful in this section. Isn’t frank an employee? Doesn’t he have a family? Doesn’t he rely on his job for their livelihood?

But if you’re letting your overhead get too high and your profitability becomes negatively-impacted…

I should point out profit is the money made AFTER the break-even point.

…because you’re unable to make those hard choices…

Because you’re unable to violate the law he means.

…then you’re hurting everyone who depends on you.

Whoa, we’ve already hit the break-even point here bud, we’re talking profitability. So all those poor employees have already been paid & you’re current on all debt payments. With this in mind, it becomes apparent the only ones who would be hurting are the company shareholders, or yourself if it’s a privately owned company. So throw Frank under the bus so we can make our mega-rich investors mega-richer or line our own pockets.

If it’s a no-win scenario where you either replace Frank or can’t make payroll, you gotta do what you gotta do. But firing him just to make more money is just a bad idea considering the unintended consequences of that action. I skipped this part to make the above point. Let’s get back to it.

OK, maybe you don’t have to be so harsh. Maybe you can ease him out over the next two years. Or find another role for him where he could actually be more productive for you (Driving a forklift? Maintenance? Customer service?) as he gets older.

As much grief as I’ve given Gene over his suggestions, he doesn’t seem like a bad guy and this section is actually good advice. Unfortunately, he buried it under a bunch of rubbish which, unfortunately, is probably the mainstream train of thought among business owners. It’s the simple solution.

 

MY ADVICE

“Frank has been with us for more than 20 years. He works in the warehouse and has done a good job for us. I like him. But, to be honest, for the work he performs I could easily replace him someone younger and… cheaper. Would it be wrong to let him go?”

Yes, because this is a leadership failure on your part.  You failed to utilize your employees according to their capabilities. There is no well-defined career progression that takes into account the increased value of experience in older employees by shifting them to jobs more suited to their evolving abilities. You have not provided training that would enable Frank to take on more responsibility and grow your business with his experience while you fill his old position with a younger person.

You’re also sending a message to all of your employees that once they’re no longer useful, or get too old, they’re getting kicked to the curb. You’re telling them they can’t rely on working for you until retirement, that you owe them no loyalty, and they owe you none in return. Frank has worked there for 20 years, he’s got friends who really like him and who will be really mad if you screw him over, so don’t think this is just about him.

Letting Frank go will cause an increased turnover rate and lower productivity among remaining employees as their morale drops over the unpopular decision. They may search for more reliable employment, possibly costing you much, much more than what Frank’s meager salary increase would have been.

You already broke even, don’t be a greedy bastard and undermine your business by making short-sighted decisions. Take the hit and fix your company. You can afford it, your shareholders can afford it, and you’ll make more money in the long-run. Provide a career progression plan that gives your employees hope, increasing their loyalty, morale, and productivity. Show them you really care about their livelihood, don’t just say you do while fretting over your profit margin and deciding who to fire next. If you’re worried about that, you can bet they will be too, and bad things will happen.

It’s up to you. Do you want to make a few extra dollars right now by being a jerk, or do you want to set your business up for long-term success by improving your leadership and human resource management?

Comrade Turner has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Columbia College. He Majored in Management and Minored in Finance. Does that mean he knows what he’s talking about? Maybe. Who knows? Listen in on twitter @WrongThinkBlog and decide for yourself.