HR Management & Compliance, Talent

‘I wish I’d fired more people’ (Founder of Panera)

In an Entrepreneur article, the founder of Panera Bread, Ron Shaich, revealed that, in looking back at his tenure with the organization (he stepped down in January), he wished that he had fired more people. As he writes, “I didn’t understand that a leader can’t put up with employees’ baloney. If someone isn’t producing, a leader has a right and an obligation to fire them.”
Face it: Many managers feel the pain of having employees on board who either don’t have the competencies to do the job or don’t have an attitude that supports the company’s mission, vision, or culture. Yet, too often, they allow these employees to remain in their roles for far too long.

Most HR professionals look at their position and value to the company in terms of recruiting, acquiring, and retaining the best talent. These responsibilities reflect the “positive” side of the job. Discipline and termination, on the other hand, are obviously less positive responsibilities and, consequently, are generally considered areas to avoid. In fact, companies today are much less likely to terminate employees than in decades past. But there is an argument to be made that terminating employees may, in fact, hold big benefits for employers.

Truth and Transparency

The termination process is never a positive process. However, the negative impacts can be minimized by creating an environment of transparency where employees clearly understand company expectations for both performance and behavior and where supervisors and managers clearly, and quickly, offer both positive and constructive feedback about how they’re doing.
Talent managers and direct supervisors should work to create an environment where employees can succeed. But, they should also be honest when employees are not succeeding.
“Honesty is helpful,” writes Shaich. When you tell employees why they’re doing a bad job, you’re transferring the responsibility. Maybe they improve. Maybe they leave. Whatever the outcome, they own it.
Terminating an employee is never a pleasant subject to consider. It’s obviously difficult for the employee, but it can be a major emotional drain on the staff responsible for making the termination decision and delivering the news, as well. Nonetheless, in an at-will employment environment driven by the goal of profit maximization, termination can have real bottom-line value. And, in fact, when done well, it can have a positive impact for both the company and the employee.