Too Little…Too Late

November 23, 2010 by  

In the last few weeks I’ve had questions from four people, each from a different part of the country, all having an identical complaint: No one  is willing to say you’re in trouble until they’re ready to fire you.

Four people are on the termination bubble: A senior vice president of a heavy machinery manufacturer; a manager of a retail outlet; a marketing director of a technology company; the head of housekeeping for a large hotel chain. Two men and two women. Too little, too late and all four know it.

What are their stories?

The Senior VP is told that he’s rude, arrogant, abusive, and dictatorial. He has sixty days to turn himself around or he’s history. How long has he been rude, arrogant, and all the rest? Since he joined the company, right out of college, 22 years ago. What are his chances of redemption? Slim to none.

The Manager of a retail outlet: loud, boorish, egotistical, and blames others for his mistakes. He makes a lot of mistakes. He has 30 days to take corrective action or he will be terminated. How long has he been acting this way? Since he joined the company five years ago. Can he turn himself around in time? Probably not.

The Director of Technology: Brilliant, temperamental, impatient, intolerant. The company has just informed her that her entire department has petitioned that she be terminated. She has thirty days to make her case and prove them wrong. It’s taken her 15 days to feel sane enough to even think about it. What’s the likelihood of success? Not a snowball’s chance.

The Head of Housekeeping for a major hotel chain: A perfectionist, demeaning to her subordinates, discriminates in hiring practices, micro manages. Her manner was tolerated until it was witnessed by an influential patron who insisted she be terminated. The hotel has agreed to either transfer, demote, or let her resign. They have allowed the employee to choose her preferred option. She has an attorney and is threatening to sue. Chances she’ll land on her feet? Wobbly.

Two of the four have received superior ratings when given written performance reviews. One never received a review but has received promotions and significant salary increases. The fourth of four is a close relative of the company’s president who recently lost a takeover bid and has been made “redundant”. No one is flying cover for #4 anymore.

Why don’t their bosses tell them how bad it is before it gets this bad? You know the answer. Most people don’t want to argue. They’d rather sidestep the issue and wait for the problem to resolve itself, even if they know it won’t.

Not everyone avoids the inevitable. They just avoid the particularly thorny problems: employees who are out of line and are highly creative and  productive; employees who behave inappropriately and make a lot of money for the company.

Most problem makers don’t know why their colleagues are so put off by them. They don’t know what they are supposed to do in place of what they’re doing and why they ought to bother.

In their words:

“Sure, I’ve been told that I threaten people. I assume that means I’m smarter than they are. I am. What’s wrong with that?”

“I’ve been told to change my attitude. Change it to what?”

“People try to dumb me down to fit into this place. Well, I call ‘em like I see ‘em and I’m the only person who has the courage to do it!”

If you want people to act and believe as you do in order to fit in, they must have a compelling reason to change from who they are to a copy of someone else, particularly if they see themselves as successful.

They need to know how their behavior gets in the way of their own success; why they should change behaviors if others aren’t going to; and where the big pay off is going to come from if they do.

They need to know that whoever was protecting them isn’t protecting them anymore.

What can you tell them besides “you’re fired!” or “do it because I said so!”?

* * * *

Yes! You may use this article by Executive and Career Coach, Joyce Richman, in your blog, article in your blog, newsletter or website as long as you include the following bio box:

Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce is a weekly guest on WFMY-TV and the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at


Comments are closed.