I finally got around to reading this book – “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker after hearing it recommended time and time again for dealing with potentially dangerous situations and to help determine if a relationship is abusive.
This book has been on my list for a long time, but it has always been a lower priority, in the context it usually is recommended (or that I’ve seen it recommended) it didn’t apply to me at all. How wrong I was. This book applies to everyone. I was amazed at some of the common sense advice that can be easily applied to many situations at work and in your personal life.
One of the key messages that hit me revolves around how do you fire someone, and when do you do it. If you are going to fire someone for reasons other than pure performance – for example due to behavior that is threatening or otherwise intimidating you need to do it as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean that you don’t tell the person directly why their behavior is inappropriate in order to remedy the situation. The problem is that most people are loath to approach someone like this in the first place. They wait and wait until a seemingly small infraction becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back. This is bad news. First off, the behavior has been implicitly condoned rather than immediately addressed. Secondly, the perpetrator has become more and more invested in their job over time. And third, since the firing appears to be over a small matter it may be taken badly since the person knows they have done more egregious things in the past.
Another key point of this section is to make sure to treat the person with dignity. If you’re afraid of them, don’t bring muscle into the meeting. No security, no cops, no escorts. This is counter intuitive, but showing your fear and the expectation of a bad outcome actually empowers the person to create one. You are showing that this is what you expect, no? This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be available if a situation escalates, but this backup should not be visible.
Clearly another key item is to not beat around the bush when you tell someone they are fired. Be clear. You don’t want them to assume that it is just another performance appraisal and a request for change. Also do not negotiate. I loved the boomerang line – “If you had made the decision to leave we would have respected it, and we expect the same from you.”
There are many more lessons in here that can be used in running a successful business. I’ve also added more intuitive skills to my arsenal due to reading this as well. As a woman who has extensively traveled, I’ve become accustomed to late night arrivals and dark parking lots and garages. This book helps me to be better prepared to recognize a situation before it becomes a bad one.