Don’t be so hasty

Applying grace in a world of numbers and profits

Not all layoffs are due to overstaffing or shrinking markets. Some truly occur for underperformance, and sometimes, grace should be employed.

In my mid 20’s, we were pitching our tech co for sale, and I had to make a trip to Japan. Timing was bad: my marriage wasn’t working but we’d agreed to resolve it upon my return. However, when I opened the door, the house was empty, everything gone, including my son. As the law did its job, I went to work every day, doing my best w/the product teams, agencies & contractors to keep it together. Shame and heartbreak kept my mouth closed to everyone.  18 mo. later, the business sold, personal issues were resolved & I felt like I’d joined the ranks of “weathering the storm,” emerging with the scars of a damaged, but sea-worthy vessel.

Shortly thereafter, the co-founder revealed my head had been on the chopping during this x as the company sought to trim resources to get a higher value. One of my peers, & a person I considered my best friend, had suggested I be let go. His reasoning was that I wasn’t performing to standard. My direct boss had agreed w/my performance but not on firing me. He was convinced something was going on in my life. One day, he’d taken me aside, asked me if all was OK & I shared. He was shocked & sympathetic. He’d been through a divorce & knew full-well the brutal, but temporary challenges associated w/a life crisis. Looking back, it would have devastated me financially, emotionally and mentally; the only thing viable was my job. It kept me sane and busy during this brutal time.

I began using the word “grace” in business & it wasn’t long before I had the opp to apply the word. A client was $40K in arrears. My attorneys wanted to sue, but I was prompted to send a handwritten a note to the CEO, essentially communicating this was unlike him, and I hoped he was ok. I got a call w/in days: his daughter had committed suicide. His wife was suicidal & in bed, work had taken a back seat w/customers & creditors alike. He was also pained that not one client, partner or person in his world had reached out to understand what had caused his own ‘storm.’ Assumptions were made, actions taken and not an ounce of grace given. He said I was the only person to reach out & offered a fraction of the amt owed, which I accepted. Today, he’s bounced back with far greater success. 

Side note: wondering abt my friend, and if I held his suggestion against him? An unequivocal NO. He’d never married nor experienced major life challenges. He was antiseptically looking at the balance sheet, my performance & drew a logical conclusion while others took the long view. The word grace wasn’t a part of his vocabulary.

Hard employee decisions are a part of business. It’s my sincere hope that for those incredible, valuable performers who are experiencing a (temporary) life crisis, that reason will prevail, and grace be shown.