I never lived in Stalinistic Russia, but my understanding is someone might come for you in the middle of the night (and you were never seen again), and then that person in turn was executed at another time. I always wondered how it was that humans could do that, how they could kill or imprison other human beings because of some mad man’s bidding, but I am seeing it now in Corporate America. A VP fires people, then he/she is pushed out, only to repeat the process. It becomes so that the individual in absolutely no way matters, no matter how high or low in the corporate ladder they are. I see this at both my employers and at my client’s companies.
Today, I learned that a VP who’d cut me loose (despite my making quota and doing everything I was asked to do without complaint, except in truth I thought he was a horse’s ass and perhaps that showed on my face 🙂 ) during a reorg was himself terminated last week, which was both thrilling for me and underscores my point. It is sooo important when you are the VP or the lieutenant not to become the executioner just because you are told to be the executioner, because then you lose your humanity and when you yourself are executed you’ve got no one to blame except yourself. When this happens, it really is the lieutenants who are to blame – an owner or leader is powerless without people to do their bidding, so if everone refuses to do their bidding then the leader has no power. So although the VP C who let me go was not fully responsible, I do fully blame him and fully revel in his firing, especially since I learned it took him by surprise 🙂
I can talk this talk because I’ve been tested this way in battle. I’ve been told to fire someone or some people, when I knew that I myself may be terminated down the road (such as the example I gave above); the easy thing to do would have been to panic, and to fire people in the hopes of saving my own job. But instead of being the lackey and pulling the trigger, in once instance I stalled completely, and in another I privately warned the employee, stalled long enough for her to find another job (provided she continued to do what I needed her to do to support our team) and then she was able to resign on her own terms. So I was able to allow the people to keep their dignity, and was able to avoid becoming the sucker in some sociopath’s hierarchy. In short, I am able to sleep at night and look my kids in the face.
I will never be Stalin’s executioner. Unfortunately, Corporate America is filled with these folks today…