HR Group, founded in Edmonton Alberta in 1993, is a partnership of highly experienced management consultants who specialize in organizational effectiveness and human resource management, and promote participative, lean, and cost-effective management practices. All partners are Certified Human Resource Practitioners with extensive senior level experience in both the private and public sectors.

Why Managers Get Fired

Reprinted from “Productive Workplaces” (April, 2004), the HR Group newsletter.

Managers traditionally required technical competence in one field or another. General organizational and people management competencies did not matter as the traditional management style has been to control what employees do, how they do it and every other aspect of their work. Managers today, however, must be able to create and sustain an organizational culture where employees take ownership of their work, problem solve, and display initiative and creativity. This requires a democratic style of management and a whole different set of competencies. It is the lack of such competencies that is the primary reason, in our experience, why managers get fired.

We are not talking about managers being fired because of a personality clash or difference of opinion with a new boss or a new board or council. This type of termination, fair or not, is an unfortunate, but ongoing part of corporate life. What we are discussing here are the main reasons that managers are legitimately, in our opinion, fired for poor performance.

The reasons listed below are, of course, highly interrelated, and where you find one, you are likely to find many of the others. All could be grouped, for example, under the heading of “Failure to create and sustain a productive organizational culture.” We have provided some separation of the reasons, however, so as to more clearly identify and discuss them.

There is one primary reason from our experience that stands out over all others and that is the failure to resolve staff performance issues. Ignoring poor performance, lack of “fit” or position redundancy does nothing to help the individual concerned or the organization and is by far the number one problem that we encounter as consultants. We are continually amazed at how many managers do not deal with performance issues. The reluctance is understandable as no one enjoys dealing with such issues, but the responsibility is a fundamental aspect of any manager’s or leader’s position. To be a manager requires that this responsibility be fully met at all times.

Creating and sustaining a productive organizational culture requires ongoing performance management. It requires constant care and attention to ensure that all employees fit the desired culture. It necessitates time and commitment in communicating organizational goals and requirements, discussing performance expectations, providing relevant feedback, training, and coaching and in every manner possible facilitating the optimum performance of all staff. It may also require discipline and termination. Managers who abdicate this responsibility fully deserve to be fired.

Failure to create a fully participative and productive workplace is another key reason for poor management performance. There are many aspects to this:

  • delegating responsibility and accountability to the lowest possible level where the work is actually done.
  • creating a fully participative and responsible management “team”.
  • creating an organizational structure that supports the concept of a management team and eliminates all unnecessary hierarchical positions that are purely fulfilling an outmoded control function.
  • eliminating unnecessary policies, regulations, controls and overall bureaucracy which stand in the way of employee initiative, responsibility and accountability.
  • continuously looking for means to improve organizational performance. The first point in W. Edwards Deming’s (2000, p.23) famous 14 Points for Management is to “Create a constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service…”

It is interesting to note that most of these practices are key components of all TQM programs and the concept of “Lean” enterprises. Such programs may use different language, but the overall concepts and the desired results are the same.

Many managers will state that they don’t have the time to do all of this; that they are too busy with their own work. This misses the point; it is their own work. It is management’s primary responsibility to create a productive workplace culture so that the organization can strive for optimum performance. If they are too busy with technical duties such as accounting or engineering or sales or whatever their personal field of expertise is, the answer is to hire technical expertise in the required area. Managers who fail to understand what their true role is will inevitably fail in their performance and will get fired.

We are frequently challenged in our work to explain why a manager should be fired. Why can’t they be properly trained or coached? Why can’t they be simply told that they must change their management style? In most cases, unfortunately, the manager still believes and has been taught that their role is to control, to resolve all problems, and to be “in charge”. This mindset makes it very difficult for a manager to quickly adapt to an entirely different set of required competencies that are increasingly being demanded by today’s participative and democratic workplaces. This takes time and, unfortunately for so many traditional managers, the time is not there nor the will or the ability in many cases.

The best for all concerned is for the manager to move on to a position for which he or she is far better qualified and where they do not adversely affect other employees, the organization as a whole, as well as their own career.

We desperately need competent managers in all sectors; managers with the necessary competencies to provide the leadership required to create and sustain a participative and productive workplace where quality and service are of paramount importance. It is so unfortunate and unfair that these competencies are still not the prime focus of our educational programs.

We still too often educate and hire managers primarily for technical competency with the result that they get fired for a lack of competency in leading people and the organization.


Deming, W.E., 2000. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge: MIT Press