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Can You Make the Tough Calls?

This week I received a very interesting reflection from one of my students. Our management class is focusing on decision-making, and we are all sharing the most difficult decisions we would have to make as managers. Overwhelmingly, the number one most difficult decision is having to let good people go when you can’t afford to keep them. Stephanie Diggs writes the following:    

“I was laid off from my job after the September 11 attacks. Before I knew my manager just seemed really disturbed and I didn’t know why. I didn’t think that in the next 30 minutes I could be laid off along with other employees. My manager couldn’t even tell me and had her boss to tell me. When he told me I of course was shocked and he told me why it happened. He told me to of course use him as a reference when trying to obtain another position. When I went to my manager she was crying on her desk. She apologized for not be able to tell me and that she just found out today of their decisions that morning. She kept reiterating that this wasn’t my fault and that she tried everything to get me to stay. She called me back after 1 ½ years and asked if I could return and I already found the position I am in currently. Just by her reaction, I could tell that she really goes the extra mile for her staff. This showed me that managers aren’t always happy with the decisions they make. Sometimes they don’t make the decisions and are asked to hand down the decisions even when they aren’t happy with higher up. She was honest with me from the beginning and told me how she felt, which mattered to me. I appreciate her feedback and answered any questions I had to make me more comfortable about the final decision.”

A management job can be prestigious. The pay is probably higher; there may be some “perks.” Along with all that though is the responsibility to make some tough calls. For some of us, the task of disciplining and laying off or firing comes easy. It doesn’t mean we’re cruel or insensitive; we just may be wired differently than someone who seems to have more “heart” for people.      

The bottom line is this: As a manager, you might have to make those tough calls. Here are a few suggestions to consider next time you’re asked to do it.

1. Realize it’s not about you.    

As a manager, your job is to make your company profitable and to solve problems. Although it might be difficult, it’s still your job.

2. Be empathetic, but firm.   

People need to hear the straight scoop, but it doesn’t mean you have to be insensitive. Let them know that even though you are letting them go, you are still a resource for them. Steer them in different directions, give them some hope. You owe them at least that much.

 3. Do what you can to prevent having to let them go.    

A manager’s job is to promote efficiency. Keep the bottom line in mind when making hiring decisions and when undertaking new projects. Can you do more with less (in terms of people)? Is it better to tough it out rather than hire temporarily only to let them go when the job is finished?

Just some thoughts for you this week. You’re getting paid to make those decisions. Start planning mentally right now so you’re prepared when the time comes.    

Have a great week!

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