A Dialogue on Leadership in Uncertain Times – Session 2

August 14, 2009 Our conversation opened with CFM reflecting on how her boss had great difficulty facing her, after the board made the decision to let her go.  Having had a strong relationship to him prior to this decision, she was caught off-guard when he suddenly became distant and uncomfortable.  CFM spoke about the impact that the firing had on her self esteem.

Jan:  It’s not uncommon when you know you are about to lose someone, to inadvertently look for all of the things that were wrong with that person in the first place, in order to soften the blow of the loss.  When leaders are in the position of having to let someone go, one of the challenges is to stay connected to that person through this process.  A leader once said to me that when he was faced with having to fire someone his goal was to have that person leave his office with his/her self-esteem in tact.  It is not possible to do this if he uses distance as a way to get through this difficult experience.  It sounds like this may have happened in your situation. Nonetheless, being fired didn’t hurt your self esteem, rather it brought to the surface doubt about yourself that already existed.  Many of us struggle with tenacious feelings of self-doubt; this is embodied deep within American culture.  When this doubt arises we tend to look at the external trigger, and blame it for our bad feeling.  It is helpful to recognize this – that negative experiences can’t trigger self doubt unless the doubt is already there.  When self doubt is not present in the first place, a person will not be shaken when rejected by another, or when treated unkindly.  There will not be a lingering feeling of self doubt. There may be a fleeting feeling of hurt or anger, but this will pass quickly.