Maybe what you need to get your life going in the right direction is to get fired.
Likewise, if you’re a manager or CEO, maybe the best thing you can do for an under-performing employee is get them out of your company fast.
Norby is the founder of Y Combinator-backed startup Origami.com.
Long before Norby started Origami, he was a Web developer for another company. He secretly hated it. He was building a site using Microsoft’s ASP.NET tools when he wanted to be using open source programming. He kept getting assigned “rigid tasks to complete,” when he really wanted to be the one coming up with new ideas. He was working for a gaming company when what he wanted to work on was communication tools.
He was miserable.
Finally, one day, his boss pulled him aside and told him, “We have some tough news for you. We are letting you go. From the start, it wasn’t a good cultural fit. It’s not that you aren’t a good programmer. It’s just that this is not the right place for you. I’m sorry.”
Security escorted Norby out.
He was distraught. He writes: “all of the work I had done in the past 7 months, the unfinished projects, the users I had connected with, the friendships with my colleagues – it all seemed wasted.”
But then, two days later, Norby found himself working in a garage with two friends on “a problem I really believed needed solving.” That project became a company, which was eventually acquired.
Now, Norby feels that “being fired was by far the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
“Looking back, the only reason I didn’t leave on my own was that I didn’t have the self-awareness or courage to take my future into my own hands. So my job performance did the speaking for me.”
Norby is a CEO now, and sometimes he has to fire people who are not working out for the same reasons he didn’t work out at that first web-programming job.
He says that every time he lets someone go for those reasons, “the remaining team benefits from increased cohesiveness and self-worth.” Meanwhile, the people who’ve gotten canned have always gone on to do better work that meant more to them.
“Having been on both sides of the equation now, I really believe that small companies do not fire people enough and that startup employees do not leave often enough,” writes Norby.
“No interviewing process is good enough to completely understand a prospective employee’s deep inner passion for your company’s mission alongside evaluating their actual skills. It’s too easy to fake either one of those.”