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News flash.  Senior leaders have a helluva a time firing people.  Especially people who are seen as smart or loyal or critical to the business.  I’ve seen executives twist themselves into pretzels to justify why someone ought to be forgiven their “idiosyncrasies” rather than be let go.  By idiosyncrasies I mean passive aggressive or underhanded or down right crazy behavior.  You know who I’m talking about…

The over controlling, micro managing, shrill obstacle in every conversation who loudly proclaims a) I’m smarter than all the rest of you put together or b) No one has the institutional knowledge that I have or c) I’m in a protected class so you can’t touch me or d) This company would go under without me.

Or the person who has been with the company forever but is long past his prime.  He hasn’t kept up his skills but has a great interpersonal style and everyone seems to listen to him.  He’s a very senior person, draws a big salary but no one is quite clear what his job is anymore….including him.

Then there is the openly hostile, negative person who shoots down everything that the senior team puts forward.  She can be seen (loudly!) whispering in the hallways and cafeteria about how lame the CEO is.  She is willing to make up shit to discredit someone, spread terrible rumors and generally storm around the building.  Her behavior is so awful and so unchecked that no one can figure out why she wasn’t fired for insubordination years ago.

People behaving badly but no leadership action taken that says, “Not acceptable!”  In the real world these people are allowed to persist and hang around way longer than common sense dictates.

Why?  Because senior leaders are more focused on the one or two redeeming aspects of that person’s contribution and willing to turn a blind eye to the destructive nature of this unchecked behavior.  And many execs think their reputations will be more damaged if they remove these folks.  Go figure!

So let’s get real.  When certain individuals are given a free pass to misbehave it sends the message that it’s okay for anyone to do the same.  The message is “no matter all those nice people values we have on posters…we really won’t punish you if you don’t abide by those guidelines.”  That’s how the staff sort out what they can and can’t do.

That’s bad but even worse is what it says about the leadership team.  A bunch of wussies!  So worried about any negative repercussions for taking out a destructive force makes leaders look weak and not thinking about the good of all.  If the team can’t handle one bad apple how can they be trusted to navigate through challenging business cycles?  Why are they so cowed by one person?  It leaves such a crappy impression and lowers credibility so far that it is a tough sell to get the staff to line up for the important stuff.

So for all of you out there who can’t seem to get rid of a nut job or find a meaningful role for someone who is waiting to retire, grow a set!  You are not doing yourself or your organization any favors.


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