Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Romney and "Firing People" and a Management Lesson from Julius Caesar

Lost in the general schadenfreude about Mitt Romney and his (somewhat distorted, out-of-context) admission that he likes firing people is the insight that "experience at firing people" ought to be a feature, not a bug, in his resume. "Have you ever had to fire a friend?"--isn't one of the items that pops up on lists of interview questions designed to see if you have to right mix of maturity, balance and bitter experience to confront the world with wisdom? Isn't that what we would want in a president? As in (channeling; this is not me): 
Hey, let me level with you. I've fired people. I've even fired friends. I'm not bragging; I'm certainly not proud of it in any important way. I'd go so far as to say that if I have to fire somebody, the failure is at least partly mine: it means I haven't been able to give the person the support he needs to find his place or to do his job. But one thing I've learned is that you don't always get what you want in this world and some times you just have to make the best of it and move on. What I do know is that what I want to do as president is to help create where we have less need to make unpleasant choices of this sort, where people can find and hold onto job where they do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay ...
...blah blah you get the idea. What is missing in Romney, then, is not just that he fired people is that we feel he did it with such an oddly machine like lack of humanizing compassion. He might want to consider the example of Julius Caesar, captured by pirates and held for ransom.  Caesar taunted his captors with the promise that if they released him, he would come back and capture and kill him.  They did release him; he did come back and captured them and ordered them crucified.  But in recognition of their kind treatment, he ordered that their suffering be minimized: he directed that their throats be slit first.

I think Mitt Romney needs a bit more of Caesar's compassion.  

Afterthought: No, I've never had to fire anybody, friend or otherwise. I was sorta fired once (long story) and I lived in terror of firing for most of my early adulthood--i.e., the period when I had the most people the most fully dependent upon me. I'd say these gaps in my firing record are more of the many reasons why I am not qualified to serve as leader of your great nation.

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