My research institute is currently “restructuring”. That is we are trying to hire in one or two new scientists while simultaneously letting contract(s) expire for current under-productive scientist(s). The process sounds so benign this way. Friday I needed to deliver documentation to one of our scientists who will not be renewed in the next fiscal year which starts in July. This has been a 15 month process so it began before I was appointed as the interim director of my institute. To survive and thrive as an organization, we need to embrace this “restructuring”.  The person who will not be renewed has known that the appointment would end come June 30 for many months now. Even knowing all this, writing and delivering the paperwork that confirms these decisions and their implementation was so incredibly difficult.

How does one do this in a good way? Is there a good way to do this? My way was certainly not great. I went in and delivered the paperwork. I let the person know that I was available to clarify any information found within the documents and I scurried as fast as I could out of the office. It was all I could do to stay in the building for a few more hours. I desperately wanted to flee home or frankly anywhere else.  I know that this was the correct action although not the best implementation. I know that my boss required this action of me. I know that the health of my organization required this. And yet, I also know that the spouse of this person does not work. I know that their child requires special health care. I know that they support aging parents. I know that it will be very difficult for this person to find a similar position. I know that this decision affects not only this person but the people employed by this person. Mostly I know that this situation just sucks.

Nothing I have learned in Business School prepared me for this moment or situation. This semester I will take my final two classes to complete my MBA. Perhaps my elective class “Visionary Leadership” will help. I can only hope. I enjoy reading the manifestos found at Change This. Last night, I was rereading a manifesto by Tom Peters called “100 ways to help you succeed/make money” which perhaps contains the hint of an answer. In one of his recommendations he suggested several books. I have ordered one of these, “Crucial Confrontations” as I feel it may help me with tasks such as the one I faced last week. So many management books provide advice about coaching and/or leadership skills. What I really need is a guide book for how to best approach these difficult tasks that frankly may have no good outcome. I’m hoping this book will provide some answers or at least some advice.