"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru." -- Charlotte Joko Beck

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Backed into a Corner by Missing Vertebra (You can’t make this stuff up!)

This one happened a couple of years ago, but I still cannot believe it. A non-profit in Washington DC had an in-house team of meeting planners who were responsible for all of the organization’s high-profile events, including big fund-raisers and legislative conferences.
Their biggest event of the year was coming up – the one that secured the majority of the organization’s annual funding. The event starts on Sunday. It is now the Thursday before the event and the meeting planners have not sent out invitations, registration information, or an agenda. As a matter of fact, they are still looking for speakers!
Needless to say, the event was a complete failure and almost caused the dissolution of the organization. Worse, this was not the first time the meeting planners had dropped the ball.
Senior management finally decided to do something about it and discharged the meeting planners.  You could almost hear cheers throughout the office on the day they walked out the door.
Now we all know that firing someone can be a very uncomfortable ordeal. Few people enjoy having to let people go – and the ones that do, I don’t want to work for. Neither do you, I bet.
But difficult as it can be, sometimes it has to be done. And it takes a strong leader to do it right. Among various other traits, such as compassion, integrity, and authenticity, fortitude is paramount. A leader must have the courage to stand up to convictions and be truthful with the employee. The individuals have a right to know why they are being let go, and, if for no other reason than common courtesy, they need to know where they need to improve.
In this particular case, however, management did not have the necessary spinal column required for the task. Instead of being honest about why the meeting planners were being fired – incompetence – they said it was due to budgetary issues and a reorganization of in-house functions. They said, “We’re going to contract out the meeting planner functions from now on.”
So, out the door they went, decided they knew what the organization needed, formed their own company and put in a bid for the job. The bid was a good one, within the price range the organization could afford, and full of the kinds of details that show knowledge of the organization’s needs.
Guess what happened! Yep, you guessed it!
Management hired them back! They feared a lawsuit if they did not accept what was otherwise a legitimate bid on the job. Because they weren’t truthful when they fired these people, there was no documentation of professional incompetence. The meeting planners would have had a good case for a discrimination suit if they chose to file one. Management saw the potential for trouble and bit the bullet.
Now, they still have the same incompetent meeting planning services, but are paying significantly more per hour than they were before. All because they were too weak to be honest!