Agile Lab - Training, Coaching and Consultancy Blog

Thursday, 25 June 2009 at

When the Hotel is Falling Down...

... don't blame it on the bell boy.

Before you start blaming your staff, especially your most junior staff, look at the numbers. As our American friends say, "Do the math." Why don't we look at a few together in this example (basically true, but changed hugely to protect identities)? Just to get you started.

One Third

They're going through the long, expensive and legally dangerous process of firing this guy. For incompetence. I bet he feels great. They hired him on a fixed-term contract at permanent wages, so I'd say paying roughly ONE THIRD of the going market rate. Guess what? Even in the depths of a recession it was hard to find someone. Guess what? When they did, he wasn't exactly a hi-flyer.

Two Hundred Percent, Four Million Pounds

Way before our troublesome junior even started with the company somebody promised the client that the company could triple the client's sales. That's right, increase sales by TWO HUNDRED PERCENT. For the client, that meant an increase in turnover of FOUR MILLION POUNDS.

Of course, the person that made that promise is now long gone.

One Hundred Times

And it's now the job of the junior member of staff to deliver on a promise of ONE HUNDRED TIMES his salary for the client in just twelve months.


Guess what? It didn't happen. And it became so obvious, so quickly, that it wasn't going to happen that the client pulled out and asked for their money back.

And so they shake their heads. While leafing through the guidelines on dismissal for incompetence, they say that they're very disappointed in the junior's performance. They say they were mislead. The junior lied on his CV, well he didn't actually lie but overstated his skills. Really? Whoever heard of such a thing? Who could possibly test it or take it into account in the interview process?

And what were his chances in succeeding in the job that he'd been given?


Firing or disciplining your junior staff when things go wrong is going to teach you a lot about employment law, and perhaps the law surrounding wrongful dismissal, but it won't make you any better at your job. I know, I know there are some bad apples, but very often, not all the time, but more often that you'd like to admit, the system has created the problem with your employee. You're supposed to be managing at least some part of that system. Before you start reaching for the phone and ringing HR maybe it would be a good idea to take a look at the numbers and see if they add up.

Private Lynndie England - not the sharpest tool in the box

Private Lynndie England, not the sharpest tool in the box

Some real life examples that don't add up:

  • Torture in the Abu Grhaib prison is blamed on "bad apples" such as Private Lynndie England, a woman so stupid she can barely breathe. Curious how she managed to come up with a whole raft of psychological warfare techniques pioneered by the CIA in the 1960's all by herself.

  • A double murder is partly blamed on a parole officer who had been in the job 9 months and had a case load of 127 cases.

  • UPDATED 13/07/09: A PR disaster is blamed on an intern.

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