Thursday, March 22, 2018

People problems suck

(No Hebrew, it's enough to wallow in it one time)

So, today our manager informed us someone on the team is being sent home.
I don't think anyone on the team was surprised by the decision, as we all were experiencing some of the difficulties for the past 6 months, but even so, and even if we might think it was the correct decision - it is no fun.
What is really upsetting is that everyone in the team knows that this person had their heart in the right place - they cared, they tried their best, and then some, and really cared for what they were doing. The question buzzing in my head (and in others, according to some corridor talks after the announcement) is "Did we do enough to try and avoid this?" After all, we often say that caring and trying can take one a long way. So, could we have done anything different to fix the situation in any other way then letting that person go? Could (and should) we have done more than what we did?
When I look back, it seems to me that all the symptoms were originating from one core problem - We did not manage to make the team a safe environment for that person to try and fail, in part because the way this person was failing was hurting the team and in part because we didn't try consciously to do so - we just assumed that everyone feels safe to fail and missed it when it wasn't. This, obviously, only made things worse, because when someone is not feeling safe to err, they default to not doing - which is only another failure that adds pressure and make everything spiral down really fast.

I'm not sure if I have any concrete conclusions out of today.
Or, in other words - bummer.


  1. Amit,

    By "sent home". what do you mean? Suspended or fired? Was this because of inefficiency or was it a disciplinary matter? And if it was disciplinary, how did that come about?

    Employment law is a vague area even in jurisdictions where it is strong on paper. And even then, as you say, people problems suck. In another life, I spent twenty years as a staff representative in a UK Government department, where there were supposedly strong laws and binding agreements; and even then, there were sufficient conflicts in that time to cause difficulty. There was not only difficulty for the people directly involved, but knock-on effects for nearly everyone else.

  2. yes, fired would be the correct term. The reason was very low performance on that person's side (amplified, I believe, by the way the team behaved).
    In this case, it's not so much as a conflict, as simply wondering - could we have done something different. I think the decision was right, but wonder whether we could have done something upstream to be in another place.

  3. Most textbook staff appraisal systems have regular feedback cycles at three, six and (sometimes) nine months so that the new appointee and the existing staff (through the person of the appointee's line manager) have a good handle on how things are going and can hopefully take remedial action to avoid situations like this.

    But equally, sometimes there are situations where things just don't work out. I had a job like that where I couldn't cope with the management techniques being used in the office, and where the agency sending me to the job had rather over-stated my skills and abilities. When I left after about a month, I think both parties were relieved.

    You imply that the rest of the team had some role in the way the person's performance was received and managed. Traditional management structures do at least have the advantage that everyone has some idea of what is expected of them; trying to marry that with more team-based, collaborative ways of working might present a challenge, but it's not impossible.