When the popular song “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from the 1964 musical Funny Girl begins to play in the back of my mind I know it is the not-so-subtle sign that I am about to get someone out of my life. It has happened dozens of times in both my personal and business life: there is someone who violates me to the core with their disrespect, insolence and rudeness–someone who just can’t see me for who I am and doesn’t seem concerned about their behavior. And then Barbara Streisand starts singing her damn song in my dreams.
Sometimes it is an employee. Sometimes it is a friend. Sometimes it is a family member, a lover, a neighbor or even a client. And sometimes it takes me forever to finally shout ‘Get out!’
My, oh my, can it be hard. Yet, I’m here to tell you to do it. Fire them. Blacklist them. Tell them to ‘Hit the Road, Jack’. Get it done. Go home, drink a margarita and start feeling human again. We pay a high price when we don’t dismiss someone who ruins our pleasure, our plans and the world we work hard to shape.
It can be particularly tricky in business. There is always money involved and a manager or owner always hires staff and attracts customers in the hopes of financial reward. The employee will earn money for the company by either making it or saving it and the customer will keep your cash flow going to pay the bills. The consultant or the heavy weight always carries the promise of bigger bucks down the road once you invest in their brilliant skills. It’s hard to put the money issue aside and look at the important element of company culture and personal values.
There is a lot of speech-making in the business world about organizational culture. Company culture is the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. It includes the organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that bind it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. Quite similar statements may be made about families and communities. It all boils down to what humans living and working together value. It boils down to personal character, governance and stewardship.
It’s not easy to fire a staff member or a potential business partner, although it is done for all sorts of reasons, both worthy and ruthless. Sometimes the employees are either the wrong people for the job, or they’re just not getting what they need to really excel in their positions. Get rid of the wrong fit. For us, one individual whose behavior is likely to have a detrimental impact on the rest of the group can really gum up the works. No matter how long it takes to weed out the issue, someone who’s not self-motivated or shows haughtiness isn’t likely to change. Eventually they’re out.
Yet other times, it is not so clear and as business owners we need to insure we are giving our staff enough room to take on, tackle, and do a victory dance over their ascribed roles and tasks. We know that when people have hope for the future they will have power in the present and we recognize that failure is the fertile ground for success. Firing and/or hanging in with a staff member is a balancing act caring business people learn to master. The trick is to identify the real character of those we invite into our lives and offices and learn to smell the difference between those that come to create and those that come to destroy.
Can you fire a bad client? In our company our clients matter to us and we work damn hard to make them happy. We’ve let several of them go over the years and not because they were financially burdensome. We fired them when they refused to control their behavior and treated our staff like servants or disrespected them because of their gender, race, nationality or perceived status. When a client attacks a member of our group personally it creates discomfort for everyone and we need to growl like a mother bear at the abuser. Abuse should never be part of a job. We watch and witness and we find the right moment to fire them. We fire them and let people know that incivility won’t be tolerated at our company. We fire them and let our staff know that they matter. We fire them and make our company a better place.
Bad behavior never creates sustained success. Not in the office, the church, the town meeting hall, the football locker room, the boardroom, the kitchen or the bedroom. Closer to home, things can get really weird. Telling someone to get out of your life can be the hardest thing you may ever do and oftentimes even the consideration of it can be life threatening. Eventually it must be done or you face withering and death, either metaphorically or literally.
We often wait too long as we battle with our own morality. We want to believe in the goodness of people. We don’t want to hurt others. We want to believe that they can change. We want to give them every chance we can afford. We don’t want to turn them away. We don’t want to lose money or status or the skills that they have. We don’t want to lose face. We don’t…we don’t…we don’t.
We don’t want…but we must. Most disrespect and severe incivility is not the consequence of individuals with mental health issues or diseases. Ill individuals earn our empathy from the severity of their inner challenges. Instead, incivility, rudeness, arrogance, condescension, conceit and self-importance typically comes from the narcissists and petty tyrants who populate our offices, organizations, neighborhoods and homes.
During the ‘70s, when I was in my twenties, author Carlos Castaneda coined the phrase “Petty Tyrant” to describe, in anthropological terms, ‘a tormentor…….Someone who either holds the power of life and death over warriors or simply annoys them to distraction.’
Fire your petty tyrants. Blacklist them. Get them out! Value and honor the culture you are striving to build in your company, your home and your community.
And if the tyrants are not the true petty type, but those that do hold power over life and death- then get out yourself. Invite the Broadway tune to ring and ring and ring in your head until you set yourself free– and do not let anyone Rain on Your Parade.
If you’re wondering, I am no longer hearing Barbara Streisand singing in my head. Finally I am toasting drinks with my life partner and humming a different tune, resting and strengthening my spirts. I’m smiling- even with the knowledge that another prick will come around sooner or later. – Jinx