For three years, lifetimes ago, I was Stu’s superior at a major auto company. During those years, without exception, I never fired anyone. Probably this was because everyone quit first. I was also opposed to death penalty for similar reasons. Stu was a miserable employee. He was always wrapped in financial troubles; his marriage was on rocks and his short fuse, quite frequently, landed him in odds with the law. My superior, Jack was an aimless man who wanted me to fire Stu. I managed to evade him every time as I was bent on reforming Stu instead of firing him.
Stu was lazy and incompetent, but who was not? Our organization was full of people who were lazy and nincompoop. One time Stu was jailed for three weeks. I had no choice but to hire a temp to get the work done. The temp agency sent a twenty-one-year-old woman, Paula as his replacement. Paula did an outstanding job and was willing to take over Stu’s position. To top it off, she brought Jack his morning coffee and whoppers with fries for lunch every day, something that Jack couldn’t have imagined Stu doing for him.
Now Jack had a stronger case for firing Stu and replacing him with Paula. Since I was vehemently opposed to that idea, I reminded Jack how that could be deemed against company rules. Stu had to go through corporate retraining program first. I also suggested that Stu should go to an anger-management class at company’s expense. I consulted the personnel and they agreed with me to justify their own top heavy staffing. More irrelevance meant more job security for them. Jack had no choice but to abide by my suggestion. Presumably there is a way to fire people, but jack had not mastered that yet.
I always thought about the ways to reform Stu. During the next annual review, I recommended a hefty raise for him which put Jack at his wit’s end.
“Are you crazy? How can you recommend a raise for Stu when he is so incompetent and is often absent due to serving jail time?” Jack seemed really agitated at me.
“Jack, a good manager has to know how to get the best performance out of his subordinates. Do you realize the root cause of Stu’s problems? It’s obviously money, Jack! He gets in fight with his wife due to his weak finances. Money will certainly contain his temper and combined with corporate retraining and anger management program, he will become productive, “I tried to convince Jack..
“ What do you suggest for Paula?” Jack asked anxiously.
I’d make her permanent and will put her under Stu as his direct report. That way Stu will get much needed managerial experience after his reform. And don’t forget Jack that you’ll still have Paula bring you morning coffee and whopper with fries every day.” I suggested.
Jack very much seemed to like my idea. He smiled under his mustache and went to Paula and winked at her.
A year later, Stu’s performance and attitude had really improved. I gave all the credit for that to Jack. The management was so happy with him that he was promoted to a more responsible position in another organization. Jack took Paula with her as he gathered his other trophies from his wall. That was a task well done by everyone.