Leadership Styles, How To Fire Someone, And My Vast Experiences in Being Fired.

I am writing this article because I am working out a conflict with a leader who recently asked me to step down from a volunteer position.  I am happy to say that we are finally dialoguing about the issue with the help of my son, Chris.  In any situation where I have been deeply hurt, I try to squeeze all the learning I can to make the pain worthwhile.  I am also always interested in learning from my mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. I hope that you will find the information about firing someone useful. Even if I can save just one relationship, or prevent one conflict from writing this–then it is worth the time I spent. And I know that this research will benefit me in my future engagements as a leader or a volunteer. About 8 times in my life I have been fired.  Each time, it was a traumatic experience for me. I never received any warnings where the employer said, “If you continue to do x,y, and z, I will need to fire you. Here are my clear expectations.”

My first firing came when I was on the refreshment committee in the 8th grade. I argued with the Associated Student Body president about how to place the cups. I raised my voice when he said that since he was president it was his decision to make. I got fired. That got me so angry, I decided to do everything I could to have more power rather than to be subjected to such abuse. I also determined never to treat anyone the way I had been treated.  The next four years I ran for and was elected as an officer in the Associated Student Body in Jr. High and High School. I did a great job!

My life does have a pattern. I have been a less than satisfactory employee or volunteer when I worked under authoritarian leadership. I now know that I will not work under those conditions again because I am not empowered to use my talents, and relationships are compromised. Since I have a wide variety of choices as to how to use my time, I will choose to work in situations where maximum productivity AND good relationships on everyone’s part is encouraged.

I made a decision when I was about 12 that I would never be a parent because I did not want to treat my child in the disrespectful manner my parents treated me. I was definitely not abused, and compared to most people I talk to, I had an idyllic childhood. But even as a child I realized that authoritarian leadership was just plain wrong. Fortunately, when I was pregnant with Chris, I learned something called Non-violent communication, and read the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk. These resources gave me the confidence and tools to parent in a way that was grace-based, and totally different from my parents’ style.

Later I learned that this style is ineffective and outdated. This article comparing autocratic leadership with democratic leadership proves my point: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/leadership-style-influence-organizational-productivity-11643.html

Here is one excerpt from the article:

Autocratic Ledaership The major criticisms levied against autocratic leadership include the following:

  1. Contrary to claims of close supervision with detailed instructions to reduce stress and improve productivity, research suggests that such actions actually unmotivate employees, and cause them to becoming tense, fearful, or resentful.

The above has certainly been my experience.

I have been a very effective employee or volunteer when I worked under people who empowered me. I would thrive under those situations. For example, the late Cliff Durfee, who authored the book that changed my life, “FEEL ALIVE WITH LOVE..HAVE A HEART TALK”, was so encouraging and able to bring out the bet in me that I was able to head up a crew of volunteers that very successfully produced Jack Canfield’s Self Esteem Seminars when he first started his own business. I feel grateful to Cliff for giving me the gift of mentoring me in a loving, intelligent, honest way so that I could have this experience which has influenced my leadership style and ability for the past 34 years.

When I chose to lead a group or spearhead a project, or mentor someone doing the same, the results were consistently successful.

I realize now that there were two main reasons I was fired from either volunteer positions or paying jobs.

1.  Because I was reacted authoritarian leadership style instead of finding ways to work within the system or simply quit realizing that the situation was not healthy for me. I would lose my temper after many confrontations, and that would usually be the end of it.

2.  I just didn’t have the skills. For example, I was hired to work in a classy restaurant in Eureka Springs. I definitely did not have class! (I think they were desperate when they hired me)

3. I was a whistle-blower, and management did not appreciate that. Once I told the management that someone was stealing food. I ended up getting fired because of the poor way the situation was handled.

4. I was unjustly accused of stealing. in one situation, I was accused of stealing silverware. I received an apology about a year later when the items were found.

5. I push people’s buttons.  For example when I was fired from East Wind Community, each person who voted against me shared a different reason–some of them which were entirely unreasonable including that children were a cancer on the earth.

Okay, enough said about all my great experiences being fired.

As a leader, I want to be prepared to fire someone. In fact, I did fire someone in a volunteer organization, and I wish I had read these guidelines before I did it because the result was many hours of conflict resolution meetings which could have been avoided if I had handled things differently.  I was willing to take the valuable time to deal with the issue because I realized I had made some mistakes in the firing process. I wanted to honor the relationships that had been broken. I also realized that if we did not come to a point of reconciliation, the unity of our Body, the Body of Christ,  would be compromised.I am happy to say that we did work things out. But the energy expended took so much time away from the project I was working on. Sometimes when we want to save time, we really do lose time.

Here is a definition of reconciliation from this article from Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. If all leaders would strive for this with people who they are working with, I think everyone would benefit.

Forgiveness and reconciliation can lead to a stronger bond than previously existed. Each time an offense occurs, we can learn more about both the other and ourselves. This can lead to a deeper knowledge and understanding of each by the other, and thus can also lead to a more authentic bond of intimacy. Reconciliation should always be the goal.

Sometimes we feel unable to reconcile—to put forgiveness into our actions and restore a relationship. If the person has severely abused us or our trust, it may not be wise to do so. Or perhaps the person is gone or dead. We can still forgive them, pray for them, and accept them—if only at a distance. We need to look at what is in ourselves that prevents us from reconciling—some fear or expectation of the other. But it is crucial to remember that forgiveness is only fulfilled in reconciliation Read more at http://www.antiochian.org/content/forgiveness-and-reconciliation-how-forgive-others-and-receive-forgiveness

Here is my research on how to and how NOT to fire someone.

I thought this was an interesting article about what to do if someone forces you to resign:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/forced-to-resign-what-are-your-options/

Here is a good article about how to fire someone from a business standpoint.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/166644

I found this article about how to fire a volunteer very helpful. http://nonprofitconversation.blogspot.com/2010/04/firing-high-maintenance-volunteers.html

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Having a clear job description  for employees or volunteers is essential. Here are instructions:

Here are more excerpts from this article.

“Whether the personnel in question are paid or volunteer, it is important to have policies and practices which promote accountability and the highest levels of performance possible without ignoring the reality that all individuals
have idiosyncrasies and limitations as well as strengths. A double standard which does not give respect and dignity to both volunteers and paid staff is not only unnecessary but is also unhealthy for individuals and organizations.” http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.

This article from CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) had the most thorough and helpful description of how to deal with difficult volunteers.

Here are some excerpts from the article:  which has the amusing title, “How to fire a volunteer and live to tell about it” Kudos to the folks who wrote this. I imagine that it helped prevent a lot of hurt feelings and much wasted time trying to clean up messes created by firing someone in the wrong way.

The philosophical decision by an agency to fire volunteers is one that should be addressed prior to any incident. It should be discussed and ratified by staff and then codified as part of the overall policy statement on volunteer utilization and included as part of the agency’s volunteer policies.

Before addressing development of a system for firing volunteers, it is important to note that the decision to terminate a volunteer should always be, in practice, a reluctant last resort.

Firing a volunteer is an admission that volunteer management as failed. It means that the interviewing system did not work, or the job design was faulty, or that training and supervision did not operate the way it should. It is as much an indictment of the agency as it is of the volunteer.

2. Investigation/Determination The second part of the system involves developing a process for determining whether the volunteer has actually broken the rules. This implies having a fair investigator take the time to examine the situation and reach a determination that something has been done wrongly. This means, by the way, that one should never terminate a volunteer ‘on the spot,’ regardless of the infraction. ‘Instant firing’ doesn’t allow one to determine whether there are extenuating circumstances. This is why a suspension policy is so important

3. Application This final part of the system requires that the volunteer manager do a fair job of enforcing the system. It requires equal and fair application of the rules (no playing favorites), appropriate penalties (graduated to the severity of the offense) and, if possible, a review process, so that the decision does not look like a personal one.

Here is an article about a Christian approach to firing.

It’s also the case, though, that we Christians have several responsibilities before we can invoke capital punishment in the workplace – responsibilities that include, but go well beyond, respecting legal mandates. As usual, God has set a higher standard of conduct for those who follow Him. http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

First, we can interpret the tension in these teachings as a divine reminder that there is seldom a quick-and-easy answer for dysfunctional behavior. God shows us through His bi-fold teaching that the Christian manager should neither impetuously fire a subordinate, nor overlook every offense. Neither extreme satisfies the Biblical edict. Lesson One, therefore, is this: avoid hasty decisions about firing or retaining employees, opting instead for the more time-consuming path of circumspection and prudent reflection. from http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

…would mean that the Christian manager should (1) offer employees opportunities to correct problems, (2) evaluate whether employee difficulties are really a function of poor management, and (3) consider assisting employees who will be exited from the organization.  from http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

The Christian manager, like all other managers, has a duty not just to employees, but to all other stakeholders as well.

So, responsible corporate stewardship will sometimes dictate that troublemakers, criminals, and even perpetual under-performers have their relationship with the organization involuntarily severed. There is no sin in this, provided we’ve first followed Lessons One and Two. from http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

Overall, then, harmonizing the difficulties in scripture gives way to important insights on this complex issue. God calls us to invest significant time and energy in this consequential decision, judiciously balancing compassion and standards – grace and law – whenever we are considering firing someone. http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

Second, keep the meeting relatively short and to the point. Your criticisms should be honest and factual, avoiding subjective or unsupportable conclusions. Calmly explain your rationale for the decision and avoid arguing with the employee. You may find this difficult, especially if the employee throws the blame back on management or becomes verbally abusive. But arguing will only escalate an already tense situation, so permit the employee to vent without responding in kind. Remember, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). from http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

In practical terms, that means moving slowly and introspectively, asking questions like: “Did this person know the rules and expectations? Was improper training or some other management blunder the real culprit here? Have I really measured this person’s performance accurately? Is my decision motivated too much by profit concerns or by my personal dislike of this employee? Have I considered the individual’s family situation? And overall, am I honoring God as Boss and reflecting His face through my decision-making process?” from http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

These are hard questions and they take time to answer. But spending more time on our people is just part of the deal if we truly intend to take God seriously in management. We will put more effort into decision-making and we will respect inconvenient – sometimes counter-cultural – guidelines that our peers blithely ignore. That’s humility before God. from http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

No where is this more essential for the manager than when contemplating termination. Our distinctive as Christians must be a humble willingness to invest the time to balance discipline and forgiveness – to always seek God’s way. Sometimes God’s way will entail giving second or third chances, retraining the employee, offering lateral transfers for fit, and so on. Other times it will entail delivering a pink slip. But one thing it will always entail is walking with our employees in hard times, whether we’re walking them back to their work station or out the door. from http://www.cbn.com/finance/rbrfiring.aspx

I would love to hear your insights about how to fire someone in a way that is good for all concerned, and your views on how to effectively lead.

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