The Uncomfortable Truth: Your Company is Not Your Family

Devon-McDonald by

Ever hear the saying, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family?

Well, that’s 100% true. However, I hear people talking about their companies and refer to it being “a big family,” and it makes me uneasy.

Managers do pick their employees.

And unlike a family, if your employees are not cutting it, you can’t just accept it and move on like you would with your crazy Aunt Sue, or dirty Uncle Bob. Unless of course you want your expansion stage business to remain an expansion stage business forever.  Or worse — fail.

This is really harsh, but I promise you, it’s not personal.

“______ is such a nice person. _______ means well.”  Sound familiar? Have you said this recently? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these types of comments.

Recently I came across a slide deck that the former Chief Talent Officer at NetFlix, Patty McCord, created on this exact topic and it really provided some validation.  Starting on slide 22, Patty encourages executives to think about their teams like professional sports teams rather than families.

Let me repeat that: Your company roster is like a professional sports team. Not a family. Underperforming players get cut or traded.

If you are reading this and have followed my recent posts, you know that I am (or maybe I should say was) an athlete. While I was never a professional, I played at the D1 level in college.

Like a professional athlete, I always knew that if I didn’t earn my keep with my team, I could get cut. While I had deep bond with my teammates and even some of my coaches, I knew that my position on the team was not guaranteed. While I could still be friends with my teammates, I wasn’t entitled to my position. Would I have cried my eyes out and been pissed for a while if I had been asked to leave? Yes, of course. But I would have moved on, and I would have found my next “thing.” And would I have ultimately accepted why I had been cut? Yes.

If this article makes you uneasy, it might be because it addresses uncomfortable facts: your position is not guaranteed at your company, and your employees, even though they are good people, might need to be asked to move on.

Here are some interesting slides from Patty McCord’s presentation:

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 9.33.49 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-23 at 9.34.18 PMWhat are your thoughts? Heartless or honest?