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How To Fire Someone

In this transcript, Clay Clark (US SBA Entrepreneur of the Year) discusses with Lee Cockerell (former VP of Operations at Walt Disney World Resort) how to fire someone on Thrive15.com, one of the best customer service training programs!

Clay:    Here's some things that, I think, it's huge, as it relates to under-performing talent, do you embrace the idea of always hiring new people? You're always looking for new people so that way you can replace people if they're not performing? Do you embrace the idea that you should always be interviewing and recruiting top talents so you're never locked? A lot of people can't fire someone because they don't have any new blood coming into the work.

Lee:    We do that while at Disney because we got some of them. We stay in touch with a lot of people that we know we're going to hire them just as when it'll happen. We have a good system for letting them know, and we often tell them, "When we have the job open, are you ready to resign from your job and come to Disney?" They say, "Yes, I'll just wait out here." They might wait a year.

Clay:    Right. 

Lee:    They might wait six months. We've gone back and we keep that relationship open so they know that we're going to bring them [crosstalk 00:00:59]

Clay:    I'm in the world of DJ business here. We used to send 40 disc jockeys out to entertain at weddings every weekend. I remember I used to be going, "Oh, man. I want to fire this guy. Oh, man." But until I started my active recruiting process, I could never do it because I didn't have anybody to replace him with.

Lee:    Which was the right thing to do. 

Clay:    Eventually we've got to the point where we had a group interview. Every week, we had ten new candidates coming in, and I could go, "Well, this guy is clearly better than this guy," and I can just make that switch. I feel like if you're going to intense about enforcing your rules, and firing when people aren't willing to do their job, you also have to be just as intense about hiring, do you not?

Lee:    Absolutely. Yeah, I mean I think that's what we do best is when we spot a good person, we make sure they know that eventually we're going to hire you, but we got to get the opening first, or we've got to move this other person out because it's going to take some time. Legally, we're going to have to process his 90 days to get them documented so we don't get sued.

Clay:    I remember years ago, it's probably seven or eight years ago, I was at Wal-Mart during Thanksgiving, and I ran into one of my former employee's wives, and we had to fire that guy for just breaking all sorts of rules. I don't know. I think sometimes as an employer for me, and I didn't do the best but I've got better in time, still always trying to improve, but when somebody would lie to me about their work schedule, lie to me about the work they've done, I viewed it a form of stealing because I'm like, "Look, I'm paying you-

Lee:    It is. 

Clay:    For work that you're not doing." Rather than have the empathy, I became like, "Oh, you are going to get fired, and I'm going to enjoy it." Anyway I let this guy go in a very direct way, I just said, "Hey, such and such. You are terminated for absolutely lying on a consistent basis." I was just so frustrated with the guy. I didn't curse at him or anything, but I was just very firm. Well, I ran into his wife at Wal-Mart and she's wanting to know how come I'd fire her husband in the holidays and this whole drone, and that just didn't sit well with me. I almost started to feel guilty, but then I got in my car, I was thinking he deserved to be fired. 

    I think a lot of entrepreneurs really struggle with just the emotional idea of firing somebody. What kind of thought process do you want me to put in my mind? How can I emotionally deal with the idea of firing someone? Is it they're choosing to be fired? How do you deal with that?

Lee:    First is, he didn't tell her the truth. 

Clay:    No, he didn't. 

Lee:    So she had a different perspective of you. 

Clay:    Absolutely. 

Lee:    You were being unreasonable. To me, discipline in firing is, you got to think about you are in a responsible position, and that's a responsibility you have is to have the right people in the positions, and people who don't perform, it's part of your responsibility. It's like your kid, you're responsible for your children, you have. You hire this person, you're responsible. If they're not performing, you can't fire your kids, but this, that's one of the major responsibilities is having the right people in your organization. To let that go, it just eats away at your whole brand, it eats away at your profit, it eats away at other employees, and it eats away at your reputation because everybody else knows you're not dealing with it.

Clay:    It it possible to be a successful manager and not fire?

Lee:    No, absolutely not. By the way, great people all of a sudden become poor performers, and you don't even know why. Maybe you can't figure that out, maybe it's a health issue, maybe their wife's leaving, maybe they're suffering from depression, you don't know why, but you got to stay focused on one thing. I think if they'll get over all of this other stuff, clear that out, focus on performance, that's all you got to focus on. Are they either performing or not.

Lee:    If they're not, they need to go somewhere else. 

Clay:    Yeah. 

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Lee:    You can give them, it's up to you, you can give them as many chances as you want.

Clay:    You feel the same with performance? It's not about being a good person or bad person, it's about performance bottom line?

Lee:    Of course.

Clay:    Okay. 


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