You’re Not Fired…You’re Eliminated

In the last post I introduced my upcoming book, The Unforced Error. The book is intended to pin-point those landmines which often blow up people’s careers. In the weeks ahead I will be including examples of unforced errors in business addition to the postings I write about business book publishing. As in the book, the majority of stories will be based on actual scenarios I witnessed firsthand. 

One of the things I learned early on is that big corporations hate to fire anyone. That’s because every firing is a potential lawsuit and big companies hate lawsuits more than anything. Organizations often go out of their ways to keep the truth from the employees they ask to leave. In fact, in most organizations, the Director of Human Resources (HR) is not there to help you, the employee, but to protect the company from that next potential lawsuit. That’s why, if you are fired from your company, it is more likely that HR and your manager will present a united front and tell you “we have eliminated your position” rather than tell you the truth (e.g. you are a greater liability than an asset and you are not worth the salary we pay you anymore).


If you are told the truth, and fired for cause, then it is because the company has a thick file of transgressions which clearly shows how you have not measured up to a certain minimum level of performance. Big companies love big files because these contain the  “proof” that you deserve to be fired (which of course mitigates the chances for a successful lawsuit against the company).

Conversely, strong, loyal performers almost never get laid off. In Darwinian fashion, companies almost always find a way to keep their best, most effective people. To reduce the chances that you and your job will be eliminated, find ways to make yourself indispensable (although no one is truly indispensable).  If possible, get a job in which the revenue you produce can be measured.  Or help your boss to achieve his or her goals; if the person up the food chain makes her goals, then the need to eliminate someone decreases proportionally. Also, never be a lone ranger. It is much easier to fire someone who does not get along with colleagues than it is to eliminate an authentic team player.

And don’t make it easy for your company to fire you. If you are one of the company’s most productive people then management will have little incentive to get rid of you. And keep your pulse on your unit or department. You want to make sure that you know how well you are regarded. Otherwise, you may be blindsided. And getting blindsided in a tough economy is a situation you want to avoid at all costs. At least if you know what is coming you can take some proactive measures that might help you find that next job before you actually need it.


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