You're unfired - image for article by Greg Alder

“Nick, I’m going to have to let you go.”

Nick isn’t happy. “Letting me go is a mistake.”

“What do you mean, a mistake? We’re just not getting the best from you. Your productivity has dropped. Your commitment and passion just aren’t there.”


“So, you don’t deny you’re not performing to the best of your ability?”

“You’re right. I’m not.”

“So, why is letting you go a mistake?”

Nick had been standing until now. Before answering, he sits down. He gazes out the window.

“OK, where to start? Let’s start with money. You’re paying me $100,000 a year. To replace me, HR will create an ad, get it approved and post it on job boards. They’ll run ads on Monster or Seek. They’ll screen initial responses. They’ll interview shortlisted candidates. They’ll do a reference check on the selected candidate. They’ll pay the recruiter’s commission. Of course, they’ve had to increase the salary to attract the right candidate. They’ll offer a sign-on bonus. They’ll pay certain relocation costs. They’ll train my replacement.

“The total cost of that will be roughly half of what you pay me now.

“Whilst I have been here, you’ve sent me to various training sessions. I have gained a lot of valuable knowledge about the company, something my replacement will take a few years to acquire.

“There’ll be a lag in productivity while the new guy or girl gets up to speed. Other staff members will be asked to work overtime to fill the gap.

“Colleagues who thought my job was safe will start to fear for their own. They’ll worry about financial security. Their productivity will drop. There’ll be a lot of negative talk at the water cooler. Morale will fall. Management will stress about falling morale.

“The cost of all this? Let’s be conservative. Let’s say $100,000.

“So, to fire me and hire someone else will cost you $150,000. Minimum.”

Nick’s boss contemplates what Nick has said. “So, you’re suggesting I shouldn’t fire you?”

Nick smiles. “No, you SHOULD fire me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You should fire my imagination. Ignite my creative passion. You hired me for ideas. But somehow, a culture has developed that doesn’t value ideas. Not just mine, but everyone’s.

“Here’s what researchers discovered about creativity. When people feel their creativity is encouraged and valued, it has significant benefits. Absenteeism drops. So does presenteeism – you know, people being at work physically but not emotionally?

“Happiness increases. People are more engaged. And, they become more productive.

“You’ve been getting maybe 10% of my potential. And 10% of Rachel’s and Peter’s and Tan’s and Avikal’s and Trina’s and everyone else’s.

“If you don’t fix the culture, you’ll get just 10% of my replacement’s potential. Then you’ll fire her, and get 10% of her replacement’s potential. And on it goes.”

“So, what should I do?”

“Don’t fire me. Inspire me. Inspire US. The whole team. Equip us with creative thinking techniques, then let our imaginations loose. Give us permission to have ideas outside our areas of expertise. Celebrate our ideas. Reward creativity.”

Nick’s boss nods thoughtfully. “Nick, you’re unfired.”

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