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炒鱿鱼:CEO的必修课

Marc Randolph 2012年02月09日

和一个人说“再见”永远都不是件容易的事。但很多时候必须这样做,这样做也没什么不对。在这样的情况下,如实评估现实、支付一笔慷慨的遣散费对所有人都是件好事,包括你自己。

    美国共和党总统候选人米特·罗姆尼自称“喜欢炒人鱿鱼”。虽然最近很多人都当众露出了马脚,但罗姆尼这句话肯定是其中人们记得最清楚的情形之一。尽管有断章取义之嫌,但他这句话还是强化了一个普遍存在的印象——“首席执行官都是不讲情面的混蛋,更关心利润而不是员工。”

    我不知道其他首席执行官怎么样,但我本人非常不愿意解雇人。我曾经创立过六家初创企业,承担过几百项职责。但事实上,解雇人一直是其中最难的一项。

    需要说明的一点是,我谈论的并不是事出有因的解雇。由于行为恶劣、能力欠缺等原因解雇员工,自然没什么好说的。但如果早已清楚界定了岗位职责、进行了充分的面试以及背景调查,招到的人最终还是得卷铺盖走人,绝对属于小概率事件。

    我要讨论的也不是“减员”——大公司为了让一个糟糕季度后的数据好看些而进行的大规模裁员,或者更常见的是,公司丧失了自身优势,试图遏制长期下滑态势时所进行的大规模裁员。

    其实,真正难的是必须要解雇出色的员工,而解雇原因往往与他们本人无关,只怪他们在错误的时间处于错误的地方。

    下面三个常见的因素会让人陷入上面所说的这种难堪境地:

    • 业务重心转移 – 新公司起步之初,业务调整是常见的事。因此,除非每次的业务模式需要的都是同样的专业技能,否则,12月份时还不可或缺的员工到了1月份可能就会突然变得无足轻重了。上周,我刚刚和一位首席执行官通了几个小时的电话,他的公司正在将业务重心从消费者转向B2B模式,导致在消费者营销和内容领域具有专长的两位核心成员突然间丧失了原来的重要地位。

    • 业务升级 – 公司刚成立时,除了一个好点子,其他什么都谈不上,这时你聘请的员工自然是你请得起的最好的员工。如果一切顺利,公司开始起步,突然之间,你得到了一大笔B轮(Series B)融资,准备要大干一场了。更令人激动的是,拜公司在知名科技博客TechCrunch上的曝光率所赐,你开始有能力吸引一流的人才。当初,你只有6名雇员,挤在闲置的卧室里办公,费尽口舌才请来一个20出头的毛头小伙担任营销副总裁。突然之间,这个人可能显然已不再适合担任营销主管。因为现在你已经有了100名员工,需要处理真正的营销预算。

    • 人员调整 – 我们都说只想要A级员工,但大多数人都无法顺利地实现这一点。事实是打造一支明显高于平均水平的团队绝不是在招聘环节就一步到位,而是做好准备,不断修正自己的失误。如果最终招到的是C级员工,那么解决这一问题的唯一办法是解雇C,挪出地方,努力找A。

    Mitt Romney's remark that he "likes to fire people" will certainly end up being one of the best-remembered gaffes of a gotcha-laden primary season. Although the remark was taken out of context, it certainly reinforced the perception that CEOs are hard-nosed bastards more attuned to profits than to people.

    I don't want to speak for any other CEO, but I hate firing people. In fact, of the hundreds of responsibilities that fell to me in my six startups, letting someone go was always the most difficult.

    Just to be clear, I'm not talking about firing someone for cause. It's reasonably straightforward to fire someone for egregious misbehavior or obvious ineptitude, but if you've defined your position clearly, interviewed well and been reasonably diligent at checking references, a complete whiff should be the exception rather than the rule.

    I'm also not talking about "reductions in force," those bulk layoffs that larger companies use to shore up the numbers behind a bad quarter. Or more commonly, what they fall back on once they've lost their edge and are trying to check their long slow slide to irrelevance.

    No, the hard part is when you have to fire decent people for reasons that frequently have nothing at all to do with them, except perhaps being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    There are a few common reasons to find yourself in these nasty situations:

    • The Pivot – It's unusual for young companies to get a hit with their very first swing, so unless each successive business model calls for the same expertise, an employee who was indispensible in December may be suddenly irrelevant in January. Just last week I spent hours on the phone with one CEO whose company was pivoting from consumer focus to a B2B approach; all of a sudden two of his key employees with domain expertise in consumer marketing and content were no longer as critical.

    • The Upgrade – As a new company with a big idea but not much else, you hire the best you can. But things go well, you get some traction, and before you know it you've got a big chunk of Series B money in the bank and you're ready for the big leagues. Even more exciting, you're finding that all that TechCrunch buzz has given you the ability to attract the corresponding big league talent. And It suddenly becomes clear that the 20-something guy you persuaded to be your VP of marketing when you were 6 employees and working out of your spare bedroom, may not be the right guy to run marketing now that you are 100 employees and dealing with a real marketing budget.

    • The Pruning – We all talk about how we only want to have A players, but most people don't have the stones to do what it takes to actually make that happen. The hard truth is that having a work force that is materially above average, is less a matter of hiring well than it is a matter of being prepared to deal with your mistakes. If you've ended up with a C player, than the only way to address that problem is to move out the C so that you can take another pass a trying to land an A.

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