Consulting 101 Series: Hired to Fire

Sometimes you’re brought into a consulting job or management position for the sole purpose of cleaning house. Here’s how you can salvage the situation and perhaps not have to fire everyone after all.

Imagine this: it’s your first day on a new consulting gig and your manager walks you around to everyone’s desk to introduce you to them and as you walk away…sometimes still within earshot, he proceeds to tell you that you need to fire that person. What? Talk about uncomfortable…and certainly not what I came in to do. And this was a professional, high-end tech management position. Was I uneasy? Yes to say the least.

This was a consulting position for one of the largest hotel/casino organizations in the world. It was certainly not how I thought Day One would go. I believe in people. I think it’s best to try to work with them, find out their strengths and capitalize on those and find out their weaknesses and try to avoid those, but also give them small challenges that help build up those areas of weakness.

What would your initial feelings and reaction be at this eyebrow-raising discovery during your first few days on the job? Since there was an obvious push for change and since I didn’t know anything yet about my team or the position, here’s what I did…

One-on-ones. At the time, due to growth and team location change, I didn’t even have a private office with a door. That finally came a couple weeks later. What I did do, however, was set a 3-step process in motion. First, I conducted one on one meetings with each member of the team. I was new and they were all tired and beaten down by former (and possibly present) working conditions and situations. Apparently the new IT director and CIO were better than the previous combo, though I certainly can’t imagine by how much! But with one on ones, I was able to get to know each team member, get an idea of their strengths and passions as well as their weaknesses and likely areas of improvement.

Follow up meetings. Following the first one-on-ones, I took my information and did an initial evaluation of strengths, weaknesses, potential position changes or changes in responsibility that might help those who needed a change, and what possible suggestions I might have for action plans and training that would help each staff member – for those that might need it. 

There were definitely personnel challenges I had to deal with. I had a head software security guy with obvious anger management issues. One with issues I can’t mention here – I myself didn’t even really catch on till I mentioned things about my conversation with him to my wife over dinner that night and she almost fell over. Ok, I may have trouble reading some people on the first go around. I need to hear it coming back out of my own mouth sometimes to really process what someone was doing or saying. Duh.

I then met again with each staff member to present my thoughts and suggestions on how we might build on their strengths and what action I was going to push for on those issues and findings.

Advise. Finally, I was ready to meet with my IT director to advise him of my findings and initial plans. No one needed to be let go. At first he found this upsetting. He really wanted me to fire people. But with some discussion and then watching some staff transformations and improvements in the coming weeks, he bought into it and the changes were successful.


I like to think that people are basically innocent until proven guilty. I have found myself to be a fairly decent personnel manager outside of project management – or along with it since it is still a requirement of the job. I’d like to think that, given some time, I can assess an acquired team and possibly work with people to get them to work better together before just jumping in and letting people go. And I was right…it worked out far better in this case.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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