Pragmatism Or A Lack Of Integrity?

Your organisation needs to change shape, whether that’s due to economic circumstances or because of a change of strategy. This can mean cutting back on the work force. In such circumstances, how do you approach redundancy issues?

This article isn’t about following due process, which is relatively straightforward, but about the practice of using redundancy to avoid performance managing people.

Making people redundant who should have been tackled for performance or behavioural issues long beforehand shows management at its worst. The arguments for doing this are well rehearsed. A manager sees an opportunity to remove someone who they have not been prepared to tackle through direct engagement, and at worst they even delegate the process to their HR department. It seems a pragmatic thing to do – difficult person gone, no risk of non-compliance around unfair or constructive dismissal, and little conflict, being able to cite external factors or economic reasons.

The problem is this way of managing (or lack of it) eats into the moral fabric of the organisation in three ways:

  • Firstly it shows to everyone a lack of leadership when it comes to problem people. When this happens across several functions as a matter of policy you can see credibility leak away from the line managers involved.
  • Secondly, it says “we don’t take performance, behavioural or excellence in general seriously, and you can forget any real conversation about organisational values”.
  • Thirdly, and most damagingly of all, these problem people often know they are in a difficult position and when redundancy is proposed, or sometimes offered, they try hard not to show their pleasure at getting a (sometimes sizable) pay off. To good people around them this is insidiously damaging to morale. Why are these people not dealt with directly, and professionally and at worst being rewarded with a pay off?

Sometimes organisations lose the plot so badly they see this weeding out of problem people in this way as a positive thing, even telling good people who under voluntary arrangements would like to go are told no because they are ‘too good’, we need to sort out this other group. With the money saved from not making inappropriate people redundant, you could increase bonuses, perhaps postpone needing to cut the salary bill completely.

Something that might look pragmatic turns out to show little integrity.