“I’m above the rest of you and I’m too important to deal with this- good luck.”

Would that message inspire you? Would you trust an organization to successfully navigate the next challenge, if you were given that message in response to an organizational crisis?

Of course not. Yet, that is exactly the message most leaders communicate when facing many of the inevitable, difficult people decisions that eventually show up in every organization. Think of that chronically under-performing manager, who hangs around because he also happens to be the boss’s friend. Even worse, think about that team of hard working people who may need to go, because of an economic downturn or because their product or department is no longer necessary.

So whose job is it to be the executioner when that difficult day comes? Of equal importance, when terminating people (or teams of people), what message do you want your organization to retain going forward? And what distinguishes success from failure when communicating such a gut wrenching decision to your organization?

Early in my entrepreneur’s journey, once my board and I digested the full impact of the recession that was ravaging our national economy, I faced the horrible task of closing a regional office that employed 50 people. Our rapid growth consumed cash and our financial survival required that conserving cash became my new top priority. I had traveled the CEO’s road for a few years and unfortunately gained experience in terminating underperforming employees. At the time, however, this was new. I had never terminated 50 people. Making matters worse, these 50 people were not underperforming. They had done nothing wrong. [read the article]