The other day, I made a statement that my experience is that people lose their jobs through “fault of their own”, and that those that say that many people lose their jobs “through no fault of their own” do not know what they are talking about. I believe that this attitude of “through no fault of their own” is reflects a major shift in the attitude of the populous – that people do not want to face reality, and that they need not be responsible for their own actions. To me it is similar to the way teachers can no longer grade papers in red pen for fear of offending the child, and that the child that finished last in the race still gets a ribbon or prize. People are afraid of acknowledging what is true – people do not lose their jobs for no reason. And those that do lose their jobs have played a significant part in the loss of their jobs.
I have literally fired thousands of employees in my career. A great many of these I firings I have done personally, and many more I was a senior decision maker. Following are some random examples of firings I have been involved in. Some of them reflect mass terminations, while others are examples of individuals being fired. I lost no sleep over any of these firings. They all occurred through the fault of the employee:
- 1700 workers who lost their high paying union jobs because they failed to acknowledge that the company was going broke and that they needed to accept a pay reduction if they wanted to keep their jobs. Only after the plant closure was announced did they come to their senses and agree to accept the cuts. But it was too late. The plant closed, all of them lost their jobs, their property values plummeted, as they lived in a small town where almost everyone owed their livelihood to the plant, and the town went into depression.
- The workers who lost their jobs because they missed too much work
- The workers who lost their jobs because they failed to return from vacation on time, “because they felt like a few more days in the sun”
- The workers that lost their jobs because they refused to obey safety regulations
- The guy I fired because he blocked my maintenance men from taping up an electrical wire that had come loose from its mooring, saying that only electricians could do that work. Government inspectors determined I had acted prudently (he reported me after he was fired), and had done the right thing.
- The guy I fired for dumping a carload of trash onto my parking lot
- The guy I fired for abusing a customer who came to pick up goods
- The guy I fired for writing obscenities on a part and then sending it off to a customer
- The guy I fired for throwing parts around in a fit of anger
- The guy I fired for dropping a very expensive piece of equipment when lifting it with a forklift. I had just told him not to do it, and to wait while I organized a proper means of lifting the equipment. He thought he knew best, and caused around $10,000 worth of damage. When asked why he had done it, he simply shrugged. I had him thrown off the property on the spot.
- The guy who took a blow torch to a $2000 bit of equipment because he couldn’t get the chuck loose, destroying the specialist equipment.
- The guy who left the valve open and drained $3000 worth of chemicals on the floor, and almost caused an EPA disaster
- The guy that went to the car race and called in sick.
- The guy I fired for climbing 20 feet up scaffolding (and so jeopardizing me personally should he have fallen and killed himself)
- The people I have fired for abusing and threatening other employees
- The guy I fired who called in sick who was actually running his own business on the side
- The myriad folks I have fired for theft
- The folks I have fired for malingering
- The people I have fired for throwing things in the plant (amazing how often this one has happened)
- The people I have fired for refusal to follow instruction, due to them “knowing better” and their methods “being better”. (If they are going to breach work procedures they best get this right, as mistakes cost me money, and if they get it wrong they get fired. If they approach me or a manager first, then they are OK – I am almost always willing to give an idea a try. )
- The lady I fired for shooting her boyfriend on my site. (I would not have really cared one way or another if she shot him of-site, as he was a cheating scum-bag, but I cannot let employees run around shooting other employees in my plant. I just can’t do it).
- The guy I fired that laid hands on me when he didn’t like his job assignment
- The guy I fired who came in and worked overtime when I told him he was not so allowed. He told me he would be in anyway (what the fuck???) as he needed the overtime and it was his right. I advised him against his decision, but he thought he knew best.
The above were all clear-cut cases of having lost their jobs through “fault of their own”, in my opinion. I have many more examples, but these are the ones that come to mind. Now let’s take a look at those times I have had to reduce the size of the workforce because of drop in sales or as a result of having to make a company viable that was losing money because of a bloated workforce. The reductions in these instances have ranged from a few persons at a time to hundreds. The argument many folks would make about these cases would be that these people lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
But I disagree. Why? Because I know how the people were chosen that lost their jobs. I chose them. And this is the criteria I used:
- Who missed the most work?
- Who is the most skilled?
- Who is the most willing to work overtime when needed?
- Who was the most likely to refuse overtime?
- Why did they refuse overtime?
- Who causes problems with other employees?
- Who is flexible when it comes to asking them to do or learn something new?
- Who is undertaking outside training to improve their skills?
- Who is argumentative when asked to do something?
- Who is happy to train other employees?
- Who reads and writes the best, and can do math?
- Who is the most cross-skilled?
- Who would be the most difficult to replace?
- Who treats the business as it is his or her own?
- Who keeps a neat work area?
- Who obeys all safety regs?
I actually create a matrix, where I rate each of these attributes on a scale of 1 to 5, and weight them according to the value each has to the company. For instance, cross-skilled gets a higher weighting than does who is undertaking outside training. I add up all the points for each employee, and thus create a ranking. If I have 100 people and need to reduce that number by 30, I take my ranking and count up thirty from the bottom and draw a line. Those 30 go.
Notice what I do not do? I do not go by seniority, and experience means very little to me. I care only about what the person can do for the business, and who have shown they will take care of the business.
And so there you have it – the 30 that have it lost their jobs through fault of their own. They did not compete well enough. They did not care for the business well enough. They did not train themselves well enough. They did not come to work often enough. And never have I seen a situation where all 100 were good “employees” – far from it. The thirty in this example would have been poor to marginal employees. And so when push came to shove, through “fault of their own”, they lost their jobs.
There have been a few times when people have indeed lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and I grieved over it, and regret it. And each time it was similar to this: the people were mentally or physically handicapped in some way. I have a history of trying to employ people many would think to be unemployable. I do it because I think it is right. If I have 100 people, there will be a handful of folks employed that are generally considered unemployable. So long as they are willing to give a good effort, I will try to employ them and find valuable work for them – cleaning, low skill, repetitive work, work where I can tolerate minor quality mistakes, etc. But if I need to reduce the workforce down from the 100 people, I cannot absorb the cost of employing these people because they become a greater percentage of the workforce as the size of the workforce drops. And so I am left with no alternative but to let them go in those situations. It is extremely stressful for me, as I know they will not be employed elsewhere. I try to rehire them when opportunity allows, but that has infrequently been possible. These people do lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
There are other reasons I consider that people lose their jobs through their own fault. For instance, they allow unions to destroy their companies. They vote for people that do not support their interests. They buy imported product in preference to local made – when I looked at the make-up of the vehicles driven by my employees last week, which I do often, the imported cars vastly outnumber the locally built. This all puts pressure on their companies, and causes job loss, indirectly at least, and directly at times.
When I interview people for work, even in tough economic times, the numbers that show up inappropriately dressed is appalling. The number that wants to dictate terms of employment to me is astonishing. The number that vastly overestimates their market-value is horrifying. These people remain out of work through “fault of their own”.
The idea that people lose jobs through no fault of their own is wrong, and it is dangerous, and it promotes the idea that people do not need to be responsible for their own actions and decisions. It is make-believe. People must take responsibility for themselves, and the idea that people are unemployed, or lose their jobs through “no fault of their own” serves to tell them that they are not responsible for themselves, but rather that some greater force is at play, and that there was nothing they could have done to change the situation. As I have shown above, out of the thousands of people that I have fired over the years, all but a handful controlled their own destiny. They lost their jobs through “fault of their own”, and I am not going to coddle them by saying otherwise.