Addition by Subtraction: The Math In Letting People Go

Posted by Bernie Reifkind on August 23, 2011

Before you think I am going all “math” on you dear reader, please let me explain some simple business algebra.

Addition by subtraction as it applies in the workforce is when an employee is either terminated or resigns and the net result is a benefit.  You get it?

Sometimes management or owners of businesses hold on to employees too long for various reasons.  And when they do, employers also tend to hold on to the headaches associated with certain employees.

Recognizing this as a manager or owner, we must constantly access the productivity of our staff and decide whether or not this employee adds to the sum of our operation’s success, in more than just quantifiable numbers.  How about the operation’s collective “mental health”?

As a healthcare recruiter, it is very common for me to receive a call on a Friday from a client, that a key employee has resigned and I am then given a job order to fill.  I often counsel my clients to first take a deep breath and assess how their operation will be affected.  Is there a sense of relief?

Does the concept of “addition by subtraction” apply?  Is the operation better off without this employee?  What baggage did this person bring to the operation?

I can tell you from my personal experience when addition by subtraction has benefited my own operation.  When an executive recruiter decides to resign or if I have to terminate, there is a period of time right after that in which I feel a certain “weight” has been lifted off my shoulders.

Why?  I no longer have to deal with that person’s “other” issues.  Other issues can include things that have nothing to do with their skills.  For example: attitude, punctuality, “calling in sick”, war stories of past successes, complaints, requests, etc.

When an employer or owner hires someone, not only do they hire the employee to do the job, but they hire all of the employee’s problems and idiosyncrasies.  We learn to live with these issues if an employee’s value exceeds the cost of not just their paycheck but their personal “baggage” if you will.

In the past several years, I have held on to certain staff members because I gave them the benefit of the doubt with regard to personal issues because they for the most part were performing the tasks required. 

It wasn’t until after they were gone from my operation that I realized how much I gained by subtracting employees with heavy and emotional baggage.  The turmoil was gone.

Of course it was time to hire new employees, but the relief of subtracting a negative employee added exponentially to my operation.  Now that is math plain and simple.

I am Bernie Reifkind, CEO and founder of Premier Search, Inc.  I can be reached at 1(800) 801-1400 or email at ceo@psihealth.com.  I welcome your phone call.

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