When To Use Your HEAD, Not Your Heart

Back in December, I had an ex-employee who had quit earlier in 2020 reach out to me via e-mail to see if I would be open to taking them back in their former position – something that happened quite a bit over this last year. This particular person is someone I genuinely liked. Without giving away any personal details, I can tell you they had a VERY tough life and many things working against them, but they had a great attitude, tried hard and never complained. However…

They weren’t cut out for the sales position they were in and struggled to hit quota. Not only were they unable to learn the scripts, but the technology was a major challenge for them as well. They weren’t great at the attention to detail we needed, and they didn’t have a reliable car, which frequently prevented them from coming into work on time, or at all. Knowing they weren’t producing and knowing they were failing to show up, they turned in their resignation. I think they knew this wasn’t a job they were going to succeed in and decided to leave on good terms, which they did.

So, when they came back looking for work, I was VERY tempted to help them out by giving them their old job back. They shared with me how they were in a very bad place financially and desperately needed work. My HEART felt for them, but my HEAD was yelling, “Danger, Will Robinson!” So, I told them I didn’t have a position available for them at the moment but would put the word out to several people I know…and I did.

When you’re leading a company, you will be put in many situations where your heart and your head will often be in conflict. You will often be torn between helping someone out, giving someone a free pass, overlooking someone’s shortcomings…and doing what you know is tough but RIGHT and BEST for your organization. And while you should always be compassionate, you cannot afford to let your heart rule the roost, or you, your employees, your culture, your clients, your profitability and ultimately your family WILL suffer.

Unfortunately, gratitude is very short-lived – so, even if you help someone out by giving them a job or allowing them to show up late or miss work due to personal problems, don’t expect that compassionate act to be remembered and repaid. Employees do NOT view you as a benevolent being for giving them gainful employment. The initial excitement and appreciation they have when you hire them quickly gets replaced with entitlement (at best) and resentment (at worst). Even the best employees feel YOU should be handing out the Christmas gifts and thank-you notes, not the other way around.

So, when you are faced with a heart vs. head situation, be generous and be kind, but never to the point where you compromise your standards to help someone out. Your #1 responsibility when hiring is to bring on and keep only high-integrity, high-performance individuals who won’t compromise the quality of work you deliver. You cannot do that when your team is made up of half-wits you’ve given a job to out of sympathy or are afraid to fire because you want to be a “nice guy.” Toughen up and listen to your head – then donate to a worthwhile charity or help out someone without looking for repayment, because that’s what real charity is, not employment.