In Employee engagement, Employee Satisfaction, Rick Conlow

Have you ever been fired?

My brother-in-law worked as a sheet metal worker most of his career. He also worked as a union steward. His philosophy: fair and firm. He had integrity. He put in over twenty years at his company.

One day he and the whole crew came to work and found out they didn’t have jobs. A company from the eastern US bought them out. The new management said, “Your fired. We will hire back 80% of you at $2 an hour less.”

Fired and Re-interviewed for Less

Interviews began the next day.

Most employees re-interviewed, it’s what they knew for many years. My brother-in-law got his job back.

A few weeks after this, I talked to him at a family gathering.

I said, “How’s it going?” He said, “Great, we got our $2 back.” I said, “Good.” He replied, “You don’t understand. The crew is only working when supervisors are around, and they aren’t around that much.”  While I don’t condone the action, I think you can understand the reason for the approach. Management threw them under the bus, and they were getting back at them.

Treating Employees as Partners


Recently another manager emailed me. He worked hard for his company. As he explained, weekends, holidays and seventy hours a week. He had excellent performance evaluations. When his daughter got sick and he took some time off to help with her healing. Hence, with a few months he was laid off. The company said they were restructuring. He had put his heart into the business.

Isn’t sad “modern” companies treat employees like this, and the workplace ends up in an adversarial climate? Is it any wonder employee engagement is so low? With the mountain of leadership resources, thought, training, education, books available…to me it’s ridiculous. The company above could of done so much better. Look, management wanted to cut expenses to reach profit goals.  While the leadership may have cut expenses to help their bottom-line, they also instigated labor problems.  Consequently, this came at a greater cost that wasn’t considered. Come on, nobody in their right mind thought the employees would like what the company did, right?

A Positive Approach Partnering with Employees

In my consulting career I have helped clients positively deal with these kinds of issues by partnering with employees, for example:

  1. Meet with employees to discuss the challenge and goals, brainstorm ideas and build teamwork.
  2. Set-up small fast acting functional teams to improve quality and productivity gains.
  3. Establish cross functional teams to identify ways to reduce waste and cost.
  4. Initiate training for new methods for all shop employees.
  5. Train supervisors to communicate better with the shop employees.
  6. If needed look at alternative ways to schedule the plant without laying people off or cutting pay.
  7. Create a bonus incentive for hitting goals in quality, productivity and waste. (If pay has to be cut, add a bonus for greater gains if goals are achieved.)
  8. Meet with employee regularly to coach and discuss progress, issues and new challenges.

As a result, I have seen employees step up and show 25%, 56%, 75%, 122% gains on their goals. That’s what is possible!

What are your thoughts or experiences on this?

In conclusion, managers that use the “hammer” as their initial strategy generally cause way more problems than they solve.  In contrast, companies and managers that value employees as partners reap the benefits of higher loyalty, engagement and productivity. Likewise, companies that don’t,  see poorer results. It isn’t rocket science, or is it?

TO ALL EMPLOYEES: YOU ARE FIRED TODAY!Do you want more success in life? See this complimentary guide and assessment on habits of successful people: Success Practices Guidebook. 

Finally, are you committed to your team’s success? If so, see this complimentary eBook and guide: Coaching for Results. 


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Showing 2 comments
  • Sherry

    I have a problem with fired employees coming back onsite to visit. How should I handle this. ?

    • Rick Conlow

      Hi Sherry:
      Thanks for your question. In order to answer this I need more information. Here are a few hypothetical thoughts. If for example the fired employees are coming back and having lunch with friends once in a while-no problem. If they come back and get in the way of the job or are using their time on-site as a forum to complain, that’s a problem. Here are a few suggestions:
      1. Talk to your boss and/or HR (if you have that dept.)and explain the situation. Ask for help and guidance.
      2. Talk to your team and explain your company guidelines for visitors of any kind. Most companies don’t allow non-employees in workplaces and require people to sign in and sign out for a specific business reason to be on site.This is for security reasons.
      3. If one particular person is visiting often and getting in the way, remember points 1 and 2. Ask the employee to relay your visiting policy, or you may need to tell the person yourself in a non-confrontational manner.
      4. If it continues, the next step is you may need to ask a security team member (if you have this) to talk to this person. If not, ask your manager or someone else in authority to do it.
      In all cases be safe, use good judgment, and just beware of any hint of potential danger. Hopefully, it can be resolved amicably with the first few steps.

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