Dear Africana Woman,
How are you love? I hope you had a fantastic week. I had to fire a man this week and it sucked. I am sure you have seen pictures of KuMushi Garden. By no means is it because of any green fingers I have, no those belong to my mother and a gardener who I shall call Max. This guy has loved on that garden for 6 years guys! He came in not knowing anything about the trade and just flourished. He is an independent worker, doesn’t drink alcohol, needs the bare minimum supervision, he is very proud of his work, and honest. Literally a God send.
In the past 5 months, something changed in him. He started showing up for work inconsistently, he was absent minded, the quality of his work dropped significantly, where before something would bother him but now he just walked by. He kept getting into strange accidents. Now, I like to be part of the solution and I believe that as women we have the power to lead from empathy. So I sat him down and asked him what was wrong. Turns out he had some personal problems that required him making some financial payments.
Because he has been a great employee, my mother and I agreed to help him out. So we gave him some money to alleviate the financial burden. But his work did not improve in fact it tanked even further. You see our relationship was built on trust and day by day he kept chipping away at the trust to the point where I was no longer at peace to trust him with the property.
The straw that broke the camels back was when I said to him that he was very difficult to get hold of because his phone was always off. He explained that he had a faulty phone. Then I gave him a brand new smartphone to use. I kid you not the next day, he called around 8am to say that he would be delayed as he was passing through town to run an errand and should report to work by 9am. Friend this dude was a no show. I called 20 times. The phone rang and he did not answer. He pitches up at 5pm burping like a sailor. He also delivers something completely different from what he was instructed to purchase. But by 12pm and my 10th time calling I had said enough is enough innit. Today is the day he has to go.
How do you know when it’s time to let go of someone who was once an amazing employee? A friend told me her husband will not hire a worker for more than two (2) years. What do you think? I will tell you 3 things that help me determine when to let someone go:
My coach says people tend to fire themselves. The problem here is that many people are not able to say out loud that they no longer want to work in a certain space. They do not enjoy the work for whatever reason and quite frankly they are miserable. However, their body betrays them. It’s things like failing to get out of bed in the morning and showing up an hour late for work. It’s ignoring things that they would not normally miss but now they seem to be in a daze. It’s the I don’t give a shit attitude. Listen I do not have a budget to sponsor mediocre work.
The second time to let people go is when they are no longer aligned to your vision and goals. Many times when we start out as business owners we solicit the help of any cheap labour, that means we get aunty so and so or cousin Bob to come run the front desk and so on. But as your business grows you will find that you need people with higher skill sets than your cheap labour has. So if you were not intentional about up-skilling the people who were helping you out, your business will out grow them eventually and you will have to let them go.
When you have done your due diligence to be part of the solution. Meaning you have had the difficult conversation to say that you have noticed a change in their work output, laid out a plan for how they can improve and given them key measurable indicators of their success within a specified time frame. You check in often. By the time you get to the end of your time frame and they have not improved, plus you have the receipts for proof, it is time to let them go.
Now just because you know it is time to let go of someone does not mean that you do it. You start to feel guilty about how they will go on to survive and provide for their dependents. I mean sometimes these people have been around for so long they become like family. You know their children, you know what they struggle with and to think that you have to cut off their source of income can be a source of great guilt for you. So many times we put it off and make excuses that the person will change one day. Listen to me, do not prolong the inevitable. Your gut is right. Trust it. Plus, sometimes when we hold onto people you are blocking them from their blessings and growth.
The first time I had to fire a man was when I worked as an office manager for a factory in my late twenties. The Director and I sat down in my office with this 40 year old man who was simply not delivering on the work. I had been part of the process of hiring the workers and knew their back stories intimately. So the Director explained to the gentleman that he was being relieved from work and laid out the terms and conditions for his release. The man burst out in tears and pleaded for a second chance. The Director was firm in his decision, said his goodbye and walked out of my office. This man cried like a baby for the next 30 minutes. I did not know what to do. It was devastating. I tried to calm him down and eventually he pulled himself together and left the factory.
Fast forward to this week when Max showed up drunk after absconding a whole day from work. We sat him down and delivered the news to him that he was fired. He immediately burst out in tears. I cannot explain how gut wrenching it is to see a grown man cry. In that moment I understood my Director’s resolve from so many years ago. It was the right thing for us as the company, because we had been brought to our knees due to his actions. It was the right thing for him even though he may not have seen it that way in the moment. All signs were showing that his life was meant to take a different direction. I just knew it. I am not jumping for joy 7 days after the fact. In fact quite the opposite. I feel quite sad. He really was a God send. I have to accept his season is over and something better will unfold.
I honour Max today and say thank you God for sending us such an amazing employee. For 6 years we never worried about the garden and the property because it was in his safe care. Thank you that he loved on the garden and he was the reason we could enjoy this safe haven. I pray that you bless him abundantly wherever he goes and may he know that we are foreve