You Will Get Fired if: You Can’t do the Job!

This will be the first post in a series about being fired. I can’t believe I didn’t write these sooner, but it is not a happy topic. I put it on the list of things to write about many years ago, just never bothered until I, once again, had to terminate someone. For some people, like our recent former president, who made a fortune by publically firing people, I don’t enjoy firing anyone. It’s hard for me to even say “You’re fired.” I tend to say things like “This isn’t working out…” I think about that old adage about “This hurts me more than it does you…” No, it doesn’t. I know that. It is upsetting to me to reach that point of no return knowing that the employee isn’t going to make the cut. Despite a thorough interview process when much thought goes into the hiring decision, it is impossible to determine how someone will perform once on the job. The job in question is our “Research Associate” position which is an entry level job for a recent college graduate. At one level, it involves basic tasks. At another level, it has lots of those tasks and they are critical to the success of a research day. We spend much time on the training process, using time proven training materials that we developed. (See “Onboarding.”) Yet, nothing demonstrates success, or the absence thereof, better than time. This is one reason we have a 90 probationary period and a secondary 90 day probationary period. I believe it is better to cut the loss as soon as possible when it becomes obvious that the person will never get close enough to 100% to actually take work of my shoulders, or Melissa’s, and be an asset to the company. If it isn’t working, the call has to be made. Yet, it is painful for me, for us, and for the employee. It is especially difficult when the employee is pleasant and personable, however, the damage that can be done by an incapable employee must be considered. In our most recent termination, we invested time, money, and training, yet we got to a point where we were afraid this person would do something so devastating when working with a client that we would lose that client. Sometimes, you just have to move on!

Here we go again.  I frequently quote the psychological phenomenon regarding the requirement of both ability and effort to achieve successful task completion.  If one or both components are lacking, a task will not be completed successfully.  That is, if one has the ability to perform a given task, but one puts forth no effort in doing so, the task will not be completed.  Similarly, if one expends effort, even considerable effort, to complete a task but lacks the ability to do so, one’s efforts will be wasted and the task will not be performed successfully.  Magnus has experienced this phenomenon many times in our almost 30 years of operation, with some former employees lacking ability, others putting forth little effort, and still others who were both incompetent and lazy.  Needless to say, all of the employees who have enjoyed a lengthy tenure at Magnus have possessed both great ability and have expended considerable effort in the performance of their job.  Sadly, these fine employees have been outnumbered by those who are fired because they either can’t, or won’t, do their job.  Our office relocation required us to install a new alarm system, one that includes notification on David’s cell phone when it is deactivated upon employees’ arrival and when it is activated upon their departure.  We noted, in the most recent incident of having to fire a nonperforming employee, that this person was arriving at the office early and staying late, presumably putting forth great effort to complete job duties.  Alas, this employee, while working long hours and apparently trying diligently to perform the job, lacked the ability to complete the work that was required.  It reminded David and me of our first employee who, when counseled about her latest mistake, said, in an frustrated tone, “But I tried so hard!”.  I guess there are some jobs people can perform that require little ability and little effort, but none of them exist at Magnus.  Word to the wise: You will be fired from working at Magnus if you cannot do your job.  


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