You’re Fired: Why all the talent in the world won’t save your job

So I had coffee recently with the CEO who fired me a few years ago.

I still remember being floored at being fired. I knew I’d made a big mistake at the time after a long-running dispute with a high-up exec (over the use of Social Media, of all things!) spilled over into a group e-mail where I let my anger get the best of me in front of the entire executive team. Needless to say, it put my boss (the CEO) in a bad spot.

Still, I didn’t think I’d get fired over it. After all, I’d just gotten a huge raise, had racked up one outstanding performance review after another and even won a National PR Award during my most recent campaign for the organization.

I thought I was bulletproof.

What amazed me even more was that a few months later, this CEO – an ultra talented, extremely hardworking and successful person, a true visionary in that industry – was canned as well. It came completely out of the blue, and made no sense in light of this executive putting together more than a decade of outstanding performance reviews, successes, awards, accolades, etc.

A few months later, at that same organization, two of its biggest rainmakers – people who were, again, ultra talented and successful, both coming off outstanding performance reviews and in fact having just received huge financial bonuses for exceeding sales goals – were fired on the same day. Totally out of the blue.

How does this kind of thing happen? Granted, you might be tempted to attribute the stories above to the thought that this was simply an aberration that happened at a single organization, but that’s not the case. It happens all the time, across all industries and in all types of of organizations. It may have even happened to you.

Now, had I read the groundbreaking book Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer back then, I believe I would have seen it all coming.

So I cannot say this strongly enough: You need to read this book!

At the very least, hop over to SlideShare and download my notes on it. “Power” is the type of book that will completely reframe how you approach your job, your career and everything else related to your professional life. It could also save your job, which needless to say is worth the price of admission (and then some) itself.

Here’s an example from the book that could have used the scenarios I described above as a case study:

Politics vs. Performance

  • People who had more political skill received higher performance evaluations and were rated as more effective leaders.
  • As long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.
  • One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that good performance – job accomplishments – is sufficient to acquire power and avoid organizational difficulties. Consequently, people leave too much to chance and fail to effectively manage their careers.
  • If you are going to create a path to power, you need to lose the idea that performance by itself is enough.
  • Research shows that job performance matters less for your evaluation than your supervisor’s commitment to and relationship with you.
  • Loyalty: CEOs tend to put loyalists in senior positions – regardless of what past incumbents have accomplished.

Needless to say, I learned an incredibly valuable (albeit painful) lesson about workplace dynamics and power after getting fired. But I believe now that it all could have been avoided had I approached my time at that organization applying the principles Pfeffer outlines in “Power.”

Have you had a similar experience? Have you seen examples of what I’m talking about? Have you read Power? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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