Sarah was not just a top performer—she always exceeded her quota. She was like a sister to me. Then her daughter became sick, and doctors couldn’t figure out why. Sarah no longer went on sales calls. She stopped hitting her quota. Others were forced to pick up her slack. Month after month, she had to be there for her daughter. I was at a crossroads. How could I keep paying someone who wasn’t working? Gravity Payments, my company, couldn’t afford it.
I knew the doctrine: Successful business leaders are ruthless. They fire the bottom 10 percent of their staff every year à la General Electric CEO Jack Welch’s “rank and yank” strategy. The textbook solution was clear. Fire Sarah so the company could survive. But the question remained: Did I have the guts to let someone go who had contributed so much to Gravity’s success, someone who felt like part of my family? I spent many sleepless nights unable to decide. What would you have done?
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