In this case, however, my employees are not underperforming, and they may never find a job better suited to their gifts.  That's the first factor that makes these firings gut-wrenching.

The second factor is the abysmal job market into which they will be thrown.  Let me be transparent: I really want to feel comfortable about firing these people.  The last time I had to fire people, I slept uneasily until I knew that each of them had received the next job offer.  I am looking for a way to have peace in a painful time.  I also am not eager to resign my job in the midst of a recession over moral misgivings about the way that firings are handled at my company.

So these will be painful firings.  Are they morally justified?  Over and over I have asked myself this question.  When I try to justify what I am about to do, this is the best I can come up with:

If I don't fire some people now, we as a company will lose money faster.  If we lose too much money, ultimately I will have to fire more people than these four.  So the best way to minimize total pain is to fire them now, get the business healthy again, and then add more employees later once the business is on sounder footing. 

By creating a more profitable business I will be able to bless my current and future employees along with their families, and all of the customers we serve.  If I do not fire them, these blessings are less likely to come to pass, and the company could suffer. 

If firings are necessary to minimize overall pain, then I should retain the people who most support the health of the company by delivering the most value to customers at the lowest price.  These four do not fit that description.

The middle manager, like all employees, is called to obey the master "as if you were serving the Lord, not men" (Ephesians 6).  Our revenues are down now -- like everyone else's.  The master, in this case the executives and shareholders, have entrusted me with millions of dollars with which to create value.  Firing these four, while painful to all of us, gives us the chance to bless. 

So what happens when a manager, known for loving his people, has to fire them?  Would Jesus fire someone?  How would he do it?  I will address these questions in Part 2. 

 

Peter Collins received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his JD/MBA from Berkeley.  He is presently a practice manager with an international executive consulting firm.