But I don’t want to sack him…

In other news this November, everyone seemed to be calling for the sacking of someone. From the social workers charged with the care of Baby P, to foolish radio presenters, dismissal has hit the headlines.

Ross & Brand

What faced the BBC with Ross & Brand was the same issue that faces many smaller employers, just on a grand scale. An employee has done something which is eminently dismissable, but the employer doesn’t want to go through with it, despite pressure to act. A more stereotyped example of such a conflict is when the most successful salesman in the company sexually harasses the receptionist and she demands his dismissal. I’ve missed the boat on this particular news story in terms of adding my comments on Brand & Ross, and like most employment pundits won’t bother because there simply isn’t a legal angle.

Actually, this is my blog, so I will stick in my two cents. I’m a bit of a channel hopper in the car, and I found it difficult to square the Today programme (together with most other media) saying that there was universal condemnation and outrage with Radio 1’s news presenters (10 million listeners daily) saying that almost all the people contacting that station thought the whole incident was blown out of proportion. The silent majority isn’t always who you think it is.

Baby P

Not long after the tragedy came to light, I heard an interview on Radio 4 with a minister responsible for children’s services. The interviewer asked him why on earth no-one had been sacked over the incident. His response was something like “The investigation done so far has not revealed incompetence or misconduct on the part of any individual sufficient to warrant dismissal. The absolute worst thing we could do, both for morale and constructively diagnosing what went wrong and avoiding it in future, is simply find a ‘sacrifical lamb’ and consider the matter resolved.” “But,” said the interviewer, “wasn’t Baby P the sacrifical lamb? Isn’t it outrageous that no-one has been held responsible?”

A meaningless and jingoistic response to an intelligent and pragmatic answer.

And finally…

Sack the Strictly Come Dancing judges. OK, perhaps not meant seriously, but dismissal seems like the first solution to trip off the tongue in any dispute. In fact, calling for someone’s sacking is often the most lazy suggestion to a difficult problem (perhaps not John Sergeant’s dancing).

The lesson here for employers is that decisions are rarely black and white. If you always capitulate to someone baying for blood, then you’ll have to justify it at the tribunal. Similarly, burying your head in the sand can get you in even worse trouble. Competing considerations can lead to bad decisions. Don’t lose your sense of proportion, or sense of purpose in running your business.

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