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Our Favorite New Phrase

“Fire ‘em!” How many times have we read those words? Or maybe we’ve even said them ourselves.  When we hear about an offensive act someone has committed, our senses of right and wrong are activated and we demand justice.

  • The silicon Valley CEO who donated to California’s Proposition 8;
  • The school administrator who thought a menu of fried chicken and watermelon was appropriate to diversity awareness;
  • The teacher who thought it was a good for non-Muslim girls to wear a hijab;
  • The San Francisco police officers who sent racist texts amongst themselves;
  • The leaked Sony emails which revealed racists mindsets of senior leaders.

In today’s culture, we are so quick to call for someone to be fired.  But where is the line between a mistake that can be “redeemed” and an action that is termination-worthy?

Problems With “Fire ’Em” Modus Operandi

The challenge with the knee-jerk “Fire ‘em!” response is manifold:

  • It breeds a “fear” of reprimand and creates an oppressive environment where innovation and risk-taking are avoided for fear of losing your job.
  • It doesn’t create a learning environment:  people are expected to come in knowing how to engage with “differences” and if you fail, you’re fired.
  • It creates a “Politically Correct” environment where people can’t be their true selves and such “cover-ups” ultimately hinder productivity and detract from work environment.
  • Those who are challenged in the same termination-worthy manner simply become “closeted” in their behavior and mindsets, and the likelihood of having a truthful dialogue that would foster growth and maturity diminishes.
  • In the case of businesses (such as Sony in “transferring” Amy Pascal to another division), the “symptom” is dealt with publicly, but the cultural root that bred such a symptom remains untapped.  The public can’t see that root, so it is never addressed.  And the “offender” will likely engage in the same “termination-worthy” behavior in their new position.  This results in a re-shifting of “company baggage” vs. anything revolutionary being put forth. Companies give the now perfunctory and empty “this is not reflective of our culture, blah blah blah.”  Would that a company would OWN their junk and dare to change their culture!

This is not to say that some people should not be fired.  However, we often think, “But in this day and age, they should know not to do that. Or say that. Or think that.” Says who? We all work and live in environments where infinite differences abound, but that doesn’t mean we know how to manage those differences effectively. The “Fire ‘Em” approach – removing the offending party completely from the picture – is one way of managing differences. But that approach stunts our collective growth, and we end up a nation of people who only know how to yell at each other.


Originally published May 2015.

April Thomas

About April Thomas

As a music composer, performer and conductor, April brings a unique approach to diversity management, by merging the technical and creative concepts found in high-performance orchestras with the award-winning methodology of her father, the late Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., who was hailed globally as the Father of Diversity.