Have you been fired?
Do you know someone who has?
Over the past two weeks I’ve had conversations
with clients who are echoing a consistent theme:
Corporations are cleaning house!
And they’re not just targeting under-performers.
If they were, most would conclude that’s logical,
even predictable. But in these instances, something
other than logic is driving the process.
Pink slips are being delivered to an astonishing array of talented, smart and experienced professionals.
The people being fired are considered superstars, experienced leaders and up-and-comers by the very organizations that are showing them to the door.
In one case even the bona fide resident celebrity,
after years of awards and accolades... gone!
Clearly, the no-growth economy is triggering a level of “pack behavior” that deeply challenges our assumed expectations of civility within organizations.
When scarcity threatens a human pack and the pot of spoils is diminished,
caring is no longer a given.
In the wild, the pack takes out the weakest members. With people it’s different. The human pack removes those who presents the biggest threat to their individual or collective survival.
The pack's top targets are the people considered to have:
- “History” (characteristics that make them seem odd, in a harmless way, such as stamp collecting, or eating lunch alone at their desks)
- “Potential” (which makes them rivals for income or promotion)
- “Experience" or "Seniority” (cutting big salaries is the fastest way to make the numbers work)
Here’s an example:
The head of IT is a top dog in the corporate pack. Her team includes an up and coming genius she
has been indulging, supporting and mentoring.
Recently, her “wunderkind” discovered an issue that threatened to foil her agenda to win kudos by cutting costs in the upcoming quarter. His report identified flaws in her initiative, then demonstrated how cutting costs now will lead to significantly higher future expenditures.
His assessment of the situation was accurate, and he was eager to create a more effective solution.
But when the mandate to cut staff was issued, the top dog gave him the boot because he had become
a threat to her agenda.
Now we could debate the ethics of this common scenario. But that’s not helpful, because at the end
of the day, the top dog is still top dog. And the boy genius is still unemployed.
The next day the big dog goes about business as usual. Her former mentee, however, is demoralized and confused. He asks himself… “Where did I go wrong?”
As it turns out, even a genius makes mistakes.
Boy Genius' 3 Mistakes
- His first mistake was assuming that his and the top dog’s values and agendas were
one and the same.
- Mistake number two was believing that logic trumps all other motivations. And yes,
this is difficult for people in logic-dependent professions to both believe and accept.
- Mistake three is a skills mistake. Thinking that working hard, putting in long hours, and
attaching his personal identity to his position would assure his professional success, the
up and comer only invested his talent in his employer’s organization.
These mistakes could have been avoided!
- If he had been serving his career with the same dedication he committed to his job,
boy genius would have been able to call on the skills and insights necessary to create
a totally different outcome.
- Understanding his mentor’s agenda would have enabled him to support it, instead of
blindly challenging it.
- Understanding that his firing was a simple threat removal would have saved the wunderkind
from spending months rebuilding the confidence he needed to go after a new position.
- And last, but not least, understanding pack mentality will equip him to safely support the
next top dog he serves.
- Pinpoint your most marketable skills, passions and experience
- Comfortably and skillful promote yourself
- Determine which organizations and roles are the best fits for you, before you jump on board
- Interact with “packs” in ways that assure they consistently regard you as an asset, not a threat
If you're ready to "pink slip proof" yourself, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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