The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

John got home a little later from work than usual and when he walked in the door he could smell the wonderful dinner that Mary was getting ready to serve the family that evening.  He thought to himself, “How lucky the kids and I are that I found such a wonderful woman to be my wife and their mother.”

As the family sat at the table, John asked Mary, as he usually did, how her day had gone.

She said that it had gone fine – other than the fact that she had experienced the worst tooth cleaning of her life.  John asked her what had happened.

Mary said, “Well, it’s probably my own fault.  I should never have gone to Al’s Auto Repair to get it done.”

Mary would occasionally cross over into the slightly-warped dark side of humor and John thought that statement was one such foray.  He put down his fork and he and the kids began laughing at the joke Mary had made.

Mary looked annoyed – which was unusual for her.  So she said, “You think that’s funny?”  Then she retracted her lips and to the shock of her family they could see that her once pearly-white teeth were streaked with grease.

Of course you realize I fabricated this story, my point being that it is important to try to select the right person for any particular job.  Perhaps even more frightening than Mary’s selecting someone totally incapable of doing what she needed done was that they actually attempted to do it knowing full well that they didn’t have the expertise.

I have hired a great many people over many years of owning my own business.  I always put a great deal of thought into the individuals who were interested in joining us because I felt that we had to be mutually-comfortable in the commitment we would make to each other.

I viewed our relationship not so much as one between employer/employee but as a marriage.  We had to be compatible and we had to share a basic philosophy and work ethic.  Lacking those elements, our relationship was ultimately doomed to failure.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I always viewed the failure of any employee as my failure – not his.  Either I had made a poor hiring decision based on what I perceived to be the nature and character and potential of the person whom I had hired; or I had failed to inculcate our corporate philosophy in that individual or they were unwilling to accept it.  Whatever the case, it necessarily meant that we would part ways – sometimes through my choice and at other times through theirs.

Letting an employee go was the part of my job that I hated the most.  It was difficult for me emotionally because I knew that my decision would have a major impact on the employee’s life – at least in the short term.  But I also had to consider that by getting rid of some dead wood the whole tree had a greater chance to survive and flourish.

Admitting that I had made a mistake was as difficult for me as it is for most of us.  But when you see the handwriting on the wall, an intelligent person should not fail to read and act on the message.

Have we hired the right person to lead this country?  To what can our employee, the President point as being justification for keeping his job?  Are things better or worse than they were when we voted for him based on what he said his nature and character and potential were?  If not, it’s time to prune the tree of the dead wood so that it has a greater chance of surviving and flourishing.

Admitting that we have made a mistake is always embarrassing.  Choosing to pretend that we haven’t is simply ignorant and is likely to lead to disaster.  Given those two options, I’ll select a moderate case of dealing with egg on my face.  Because I know, it’s always important to try to find the right person for the job.


  1. A very good example, and do I need to say that I agree, fully and completely? Same experiences, same feeling, same results.

  2. I can remember when I took over as Hospital CEO which was my last job before retirement. The Board wanted to clean out some of the department heads, one in particular. I asked them to hold up for a while and they wanted to know why. It was because I like to build people rather than destroy them. Some I was able to do that with but eventually I had to agree with the board on their main target.

  3. I remember letting one of my employees go – the hardest firing I ever had to do because I genuinely liked the man. He was just all wrong for the job. And the truth was that both of us knew it. Nevertheless it took about three hours because I talked about everything in the world with him before I got down to the point. I think when I finally said the words we were both relieved.

    The finale to the story is that he got a position with Tiffany & Co. He had a tremendous ability at providing customer service and he did very well with the firm, becoming the manager of their Chicago store. Later he was promoted to the main store in NYC as Assistant Manager.

    I can’t tell you how many times he has thanked me for firing him.

  4. This is a great post! I have found myself in similar position of having to let someone go who I truly, truly liked.

    Fortunately, (or unfortunately because it could have been an opportunity for my growth), I worked for the government so it was easy to blame the separation request on bureaucracy.

    Unlike you, once I let this person go they didn’t rebound because he lacked a good work ethic. In terms of my Karma in not shouldering my choice and my decision, I was eventually let go as a consequence of bureaucratic decision.

    But, at least I was fired with about 15 other people so it was easier to hide my sadness.

  5. Thank you, Ayanna for your comment. Having to let someone go is the most disturbing part of being in management – at least it is to me. But if the reason the person is let go is that we have hired a square peg and have tried to push it into a round hole, we really do the person a service because they can seek out their real calling. Whether they choose to do that is up to them.

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