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When Delay Makes You Wrong
Personnel decisions regarding valued team members who severely misstep or violate workplace standards are always complex and often tortuous. Good leaders care deeply about those they lead and this makes the hard choice to potentially end a relationship even more gut-wrenching.
Good leaders who learn about an incident or violation dig in and find out the facts. They listen objectively to all parties and maintain an impartial lens as to what they learn.
Whenever possible, they err on the side of the dedicated and valued team member, giving them the opportunity to redeem themselves by doing better in the future.
On occasion, the indiscretion or lapse in judgment is too big for a second chance. Leaders have an obligation to their many stakeholders to draw a clear line between what is redeemable and what requires dismissal.
At the conclusion of any investigation into what occurred, leaders are faced with two dilemmas. The first is to decide whether the violation mandates dismissal. The second is how quickly to act if termination is the necessary answer.
Because leaders care deeply about the valued team member and also acknowledge the personal conflict created by taking such a hard stance, they often delay making the final decision. Delaying is a big problem.
Up to the moment where the facts now clearly support the need to dismiss the team member, leaders are on safe and righteous ground. Any delay puts that high ground in jeopardy.
In the eyes of those who will judge the leaders later on, once the facts have come to light, it is the decision at the moment of understanding that determines the credibility of the decision-maker.
Any delay in making the necessary decision, sometimes even a few hours, puts the credibility of the leader at risk. “If you knew, why didn’t you act?” is the question that will echo in the future. Leaders who delay trade being right for being wrong. Once the decision becomes clear, any procrastination illustrates a leader who is hesitant to do the right thing.
Once a leader is reputationally wrong, nothing can erase the stain. Now it is the leader who needs to redeem themselves in the future. Once the decision becomes clear, delay makes leaders groundless. That’s a situation to avoid at all costs.