A couple of weeks ago, Scott Forstall
, the Apple executive in charge of iOS and the maps debacle
associated with the iPhone 5 release, was categorically fired.
According to Gigaom
, Forstall was asked to co-sign (with Apple CEO Tim Cook) an apology letter to customers for the Maps issue. He refused
, which looks to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Although he’d been with the company—and Steve Jobs—since the NeXT
days, his Jobs-like behavior (minus the genius) was too much for the more calm and collected Cook. It has even been reported there was silent jubilation when it was announced he was no longer with the company.
Which brings us to a very good lesson: Too often the prima donnas
are revered because they create a ton of revenue or build amazing products, but do so much damage to morale and culture they’re rarely worth keeping around.
No room for prima donnas
I’m sure you know the type. In fact, you may employ the type this very second. It’s very common to think, “I can’t do without the revenue he/she generates,” so we keep the person around even though we know it’s bad for the culture we’re building.
But it’s not always a top revenue generator. It could be someone who has built the right relationships with the decision makers.
Case in point, we once had an employee who was very young and didn’t yet generate any revenue, but my second in command loved
her. She did a ton of damage, particularly to our interns and newly graduated young professionals, and there was a lot of backstabbing and low morale. It went against everything I was building, culture-wise, but I couldn’t persuade our COO to let her go.
Eventually, our COO left and so did this young woman (not by her own choice), and I was amazed at how quickly morale turned around. In fact, the culture I fought so hard to build began to happen naturally. I no longer had to fight the uphill battle.
Fire the prima donna
It’s not an easy decision to make. That’s why they say hire slowly and fire quickly
Executive coach Scott Eblin
offers three reasons you should fire the prima donna
today. He says, “You’ll get more from the rest of your team, you’ll send the right message, and you’ll save yourself headaches in the future.”
Let’s dissect each of those reasons.
1. You’ll get more from the rest of your team.
Just as Apple employees silently celebrated the news of Forstall’s firing, and my team’s attitudes changed when we let our prima donna
go, so too will your team. Right now they spend a lot of their time complaining about the prima donna
, which is preventing them from doing their very best work. You’ll be surprised at how that revenue you think you’re going to miss is quickly made up with a more productive team.
2. You’ll send the right message.
Most of your team is looking at you to lead by example. If you allow the prima donna
to continue ruling the roost, the only message you’re sending is that money is the most important thing and you’re willing to let people behave badly if it means you can put more dollars in your pocket at the end of the year. If that’s true, by all means, let your prima donnas
continue to ruin your culture. But if culture and team collaboration is important to you, get it done.
3. You’ll save yourself headaches in the future.
It’s going to hurt in the short-term. You may have to work twice as hard to fill the empty pipeline left when you fire the prima donna
. In fact, you might have to be the one who has to pick up the slack on top of your already full day. Think of it as a long-term investment. It’ll hurt right now, but eventually you’ll come out better for having made the cut.
What other lessons do you have for business leaders when it comes to firing the prima donna?
Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. This article first appeared on the author’s weekly Crain’s Chicago Business column and on the blog Spin Sucks.