Updated: Oct 19, 2020
I want to work for a company that fires people. So do you.
You heard right. Firing itself is not a sign of a bad workplace. Lack of firing is not a sign of a good workplace, nor ironically is it even an indicator of job security.
I worked for 11 years in a group of about 200 people. To my knowledge one firing was attempted and it didn’t stick; the employee was still there when I left, so ZERO people were fired from 200...in 11 years.
How can that be characterized as a problem? Well, we had roughly the usual complement of stars, competent soldiers and deadwood. There were people who should have been fired.
Still…why does it matter to you or me if they are not?
Because when failure is made impossible, then failure does not matter. And here’s the death knell: when failure does not matter, success does not matter.
In 11 years I never discovered one thing that mattered to my managers. Innovation, efficiency, cost savings, exemplary client service, flexibility, solving the toughest problems…none of it mattered. And frankly I was too naïve to understand my responsibility to sit a manager down and extract an answer to the question “What matters to you? What should I deliver that you will value the most?” when none of the "obvious" answers were operable.
When nobody gets fired and therefore there is no real failure and therefore nothing to distinguish failure from success, nothing to differentiate the mediocre from the exemplary, when the day of reckoning comes everyone is equally at risk. Your contributions provide you no security. Innovations, cost savings, project successes – they matter not at all. Pack your desk and be ready.
Firing is sad, tragic and wrenching. And essential, and desirable. Because it ensures that success matters.