How NOT to fire someone

The article

This article is representative of a genre. I will not call it fake news but rather “half news”. And I want to say why. And why it’s dangerous. But note that it’s under the “All the moms” section of USA Today, so every momma bear will have her hackles up to begin with.

The players:

Crystal Fisher – mother
Dawn – her boss
PS Food Mart (aka Folk Oil) – a company with 35 gas stations/convenience stores in the midwest USA.

In summary and at first blush this sounds like the actions of a rogue manager – Dawn – at one of the franchise “outposts” of the company. She didn’t know what she was doing, and it does sound like there was prior history with Crystal, the mother. So she may not even have believed Crystal?

So in part, fault likes with corporate PS Food Mart for not spelling out policy. This manager was clueless and was acting in a fear-driven way. An environment that discourages communication with headquarters only allows for good news (or at worst, business news, good or bad) to flow up. So Dawn may well have thought it was her job to just deal with this, cutting Crystal off to keep her franchise going. Texting is the worst way to communicate during times of crisis; Dawn should have known that her words would both hurt and stick. It is a leap to say that this was the first time the two communicated like this. But it became the final time.

At some places I’ve worked there are unwritten policies about this kind of thing. And at others, full-fledged long-term programs for life’s lingering emergencies. I can recount only a couple people EVER who took advantage and overstayed their leave.

Also, in my experience, despite official corporate communication, the firing of Dawn could be less about actual compassion or care for employees as a CYA move to eliminate lawsuits or simple PR to keep PS Food Mart/Folk Oil from looking bad. Individuals don’t matter in those cases; it’s all about the perspective of the public. Or PS Food Mart might indeed care and now establish policy. We won’t know because of the quick burn of the news.

Now, also, Dawn may indeed just been an uncaring despot, which the article would inspire. But that’s NOT a given. If true, a boss that pulls the plug on mourning, care for one’s loved ones or disability-driven absence does not deserve to lead people; that person simply has too much to learn. If that person’s manager allows that behavior, s/he will sacrifice a whole lot of good people who will either leave or just become less productive because who wants to work for someone who hasn’t got your back?

But USA Today/New York Post and any other media company reporting on this didn’t care about balancing things; they only wanted viral circulation, which makes them more money. At people’s expense. Dawn may well be a good manager who did her uninformed best, but good luck finding work now.

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“Saving Mr. Banks” and traumatic echo – hunger for a happier ending

I’m probably going to own Saving Mr. Banks, the story-behind-the-story of Walt Disney’s making of the movie based on her story Mary Poppins.

Using the old but effective present-to-past flashback technique, the story of author P.L. Travers‘ (née Helen Lyndon Goff) childhood is projected into the story of her masterpiece.   Disney had promised his family that he would make the story into a movie and doing so proved an adventure of persuasion to the point of sacrifice.  But the film was made.

The interplay of the songwriting brothers Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman and Travers was very well portrayed, with their liberties with the story and the songs being written presented very tenuously, and withdrawn at the first whim of Travers’ objection.  But by the end, Travers was delighting in the joy of the compositions and the fit into her story.

I don’t know how real the story of Travers’ childhood being superimposed into Mary Poppins is.  I do care, but I care more about the power of redemption afforded by it.

In Saving Mr. Banks Travers’ father, Travers Goff, struggled as a worker at a bank and struggled worse with alcohol, slipping into depression and dying when she was still a girl in Australia.  He was unhappy with seemingly everything except being her father.  And she knew his love, but was tortured by his destruction.  The character of Mr. Banks is seen as an obvious portrayal of her father and his pain in trying to be a professional banker is a key target of the “ministry” of Mary Poppins in the story.

The echo is loud and clear.

I recommend watching the movie; I intend to again and again.

A repeating pattern in my ministry and personal life is the echoes of past trauma that keep getting replayed and replayed.  I believe it’s universal, though clearly some have a worse problem here than others.

I’ve sought for a reason that I (and others) do this.  I believe it’s because I want to “get it right” this time; I want the story to have a happy ending.  Of course it does not, at least in my memory, recalling the trauma or shame or pain of the past.

But Walt Disney pulls off a good ending for Travers.  The scene where she sings along with Lets Go Fly A Kite is a view of real healing.

There is redemption.  There is a different ending.  And we can have it today.

Stories abound with endings like this; we love them because we need them.  One I love is the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  The analogous scene of redemption in that story happens after Joseph’s father, Jacob, has died and his brothers now fear for their lives because of the horrible way they treated Joseph, selling him into slavery years ago.  But he says this and their is deep healing:

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

So for me, the challenge is to see good being accomplished in the evil intentions, words and deeds of people and even in circumstances I consider painful.  That”s how to resolve traumatic echo.  And it’s seen in God’s good purpose which is thankfully not thwarted by anything.