Employee Discipline and Termination - Part 6: After firing an employee, new life will eventually come
We have created a folk theory about trust that is mistaken. I hear from leaders: "If I did that, not one here would ever trust me again!" Or, from followers, "I don't think I can ever trust him or this place ever again!" This allows a spirit of distrust to become the common corporate standard, and a long downhill slide.
Thanks for this other side of the perspective, Theresa, because bad things do happen in good organizations, and bad things happen among good people, and—bad things happen with bad people who seem good. Issues can develop that cause bad things to arise in even the best of situations... But I want to turn that around and talk about good that can come out of ugly terminations. Maybe the following will make sense.
We have created a folk theory about trust that is mistaken. It is always said, "Once trust is broken, it is hard to regain." This is indeed true. But, over time, this has morphed into, "Once trust is broken, it does not come back." Do you see that? I see it when victims of trauma are so encouraged to not trust that they lose the ability to trust. While this could be argued to be a reasonable stance in some very toxic situations, I don't see it as being reasonable in the warp and woof of everyday organizational relationships between leaders and followers. In fact, it is deadly.
I hear from leaders: "If I did that, not one here would ever trust me again!" Or, from followers, "I don't think I can ever trust him or this place ever again!" This allows a spirit of distrust to become the common corporate standard, and a long downhill slide.
How does a leader combat this? Well, first he or she needs to have a track record of trust to fall back on. Sometimes, it is enough to have a history of trust and ethical behavior. Staff will look at the ugly termination, look at your behavior with them, and decide to give you the benefit of the doubt, without ever discussing it.
Other staff may approach you about themselves or others having problems. You could insist, "Tell those who have issues to come to talk with me." That usually doesn't work. I treat these people as gateway people. I ask them to tell me what their issues are, and what issues are out there, without saying who the other people are.
When people are wondering about a termination, we try and talk through the general issues that brought up the termination (without being very specific about the person who left). I tell them I would expect that they would share our talk with others, and encourage them to come back to me with other questions. Usually, that breaks some of the others loose to talk with me. I try and revisit people in a week or two, to see how things are going, and if they have any other questions. I also ask them to give me input on what they think I need to do to help the climate. And then I try and do that.
Then there is the group that doesn't trust me, and probably never did trust me or the organization, and that is where they may stay. Over the last 15 years, we have found that some of them change over time. And some of them leave.
In other words, I try to keep doing what I have been doing, change where I think folks have a good point, and encourage the kind of climate that facilitates open relationships. And pray.
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