I’ve been in situations where I’ve worked hard to keep an employee who had made a mistake. I’ve also had to let people go because they just weren’t right for the position.
It can be hard to know the right thing to do. The key for me in these situations is seeking God in prayer. One of my favorite verses comes from James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
When I worked in manufacturing, we had a technical specialist who made an error with some of the components in an order for one of our clients. The mistake ended up costing the company tens of thousands of dollars. We had to send some of our staff to travel to the client to fix the mistake.
My boss, the president, wanted the technical specialist fired immediately. But I felt otherwise. Because the employee had been a solid contributor with a good attitude, I felt he deserved another chance. I worked with our human relations department to advocate for this employee with our president.
At the same time, I needed to hold this employee accountable. Due to his embarrassment over the mistake, he didn’t want to be part of the team that traveled to work with the client on site. Although I sympathized, I insisted that he be personally involved in making things right. I explained that as embarrassing or humbling as it might be, helping correct the mistake was the right thing to do and showed that he was taking responsibility for the error, which would go a long way to redeeming himself and staying employed.
We eventually found a different role for him in the company, and he made great contributions for many years.
On the flip side, there are times when you have to let someone go. My company needed to make some layoffs, and I had to lay off someone who was close to retirement. It was a difficult thing, because I knew he would have a hard time finding new work at his age. But as I compared him to other employees, it was clear that if we had to lay someone off, he should be the one to go.
In those cases, try very hard to show care for the person and treat them with respect. Remember they are valuable to God and made in his image. Work with your company’s personnel manager to make the landing as soft as possible with a severance package. Show care for the person in any way you can.
Firing someone is always difficult for me because my bent is to try to help others succeed. But I know that I am accountable to the authority of my boss. I also am accountable to help my company’s bottom line. Sometimes there is tension among all these different factors. That’s why prayer is so essential for navigating these situations. Sometimes the right thing is to terminate someone. Sometimes the right thing is to give them another chance. You need God to show you what he wants you to do in any given situation. ●
Ray Brown worked for a multinational corporation in the electrical industry with major operations in the U.S., Mexico, India, Canada, and China. Ray retired in 2017 and now lives in South Carolina where he teaches International Business, Financial Management, and Entrepreneurship online. Ray makes his expertise available to you through Missional Impact’s Mentor Network. | Read Ray’s full bio. | Send a question to Ray.