Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's not always good to be the king

At what point does my responsibility end? With my kids I know that the answer must be never. They are products of me, and having been a single dad for a considerable portion of their lives I know that the decisions that they make for years to come will be based on decisions, good and bad, I made while they lived with me.
Regarding my employees, the water gets murky. At what point do I step away and say, "Not my problem?" Of course, the argument can be made that I'm not responsible for any grown person's behavior, in or out of work, they are thinking people capable of making decisions independent of my will. How do you control that?
That is a tempting way out, but I can't take it. Whether it's my upbringing, my training, or the experience of having served under a handful of great leaders, I feel a very real sense of responsibility for my crew, both for their well being and for their mistakes. If one of my guys is wrong, I'm wrong. If they aren't happy, neither am I. It doesn't matter if I like them or not, it matters that I either hired them or inherited them and did both knowing what I was doing and that I was becoming responsible for human beings in the process.
Too dramatic? This isn't the military after all, no one's life is dependant upon my doing a good job as a boss. But several livelihoods are, along with the tens of thousands we pay in taxes, both through the business itself and its payroll. And actually, if we don't do a good job regarding hygiene and food storage and preparation we very well would be putting lives at risk.
So, when is it OK to walk away from an employee? Even in the military they only kick members out for the most serious offenses. Trying to get kicked out of the army is damned tough, I saw people try and the army punished them but kept them with a "you're a fuck up, but you're my fuck up" attitude. Even the samurai felt the same, the master was responsible for the acts of his men with the understanding that if the soldier embarrassed his boss too badly the shit would roll down hill, and so would the heads.
So, should I keep a guy that is nearly always late, but does an otherwise good job, and who I truly like and want the best for, and then no-shows without explanation until the next night?
What about the guy who calls in all the time with different excuses until I catch him in a lie? That one's a lot easier, but I still feel a very real responsibility for how the courses of their lives will be affected by the decision each has forced me to make.
This is really a letter to myself, to solidify my thoughts and strengthen my resolve. The decisions have already been made, and the heads collected.


Maria said...

I find that it helps to write this shit down, don't you? It sort of helps you get where you need to be.

Eric said...

It really does.

-Sarah- said...

I've had some really shitty bosses in my day, and I've had a few really great ones. One really great one to be exact. She was good to me all the times I sucked as a manager, stumbled in with booze coming out of my bones, contradicted her in public and ran dozens of good employees off. She also kicked me out on my ass when I needed it the most. To this day, I respect and love her more than just about anybody. Never underestimate the life changing impact you have on your employees (I'm sure you don't) Tough love is a tricky thing... I trust you've made the right decisions.

Eric said...

Thanks Sarah! I think I did; one actually got a reprieve at the last second. We'll see.