Sophie’s Choice, Workplace Edition

Image: Bob RosnerA number of years ago I was running a small non-profit that I’d founded. We negotiated a big six-figure payday with a video production company to produce a four part video series. We also tossed in exclusive distribution rights to an award winning video we’d created.

Can you say windfall? We could.

Thinking that this was ongoing revenue for my organization, instead of a one-time bonanza, I went out and hired two new staffers.

Six months later, as the money was running out, I had to lay off the two staffers. Painful stuff that can still keep me awake at night.

At the time, a friend told me something he’d learned in his life guard training. If you were swimming back to shore with someone who couldn’t do it on their own, there is one cardinal rule. If you feel yourself being pulled beneath the waves, you need to let go of them. Because your primary job is to save yourself. Anything else is icing, not the cake.

Even though I’ve been speaking out against layoffs for a long time, I also realize that there are times where an organization needs to make tough calls for the good of everyone.

Given all the layoffs and turmoil in the economy, it never ceases to amaze me at how there are still people out there who believe that they are entitled to have their job. The float through their day partying like it’s 1999.

Organizations need to realize that if these sacred cows restricted their damage to their own lack of production, it would be difficult but not a back breaker for a company. But unfortunately these people often send the message out to everyone else that mediocrity is not only tolerated, it’s embraced.

Tough calls. It sounds tacky but addition by subtraction really does mean something in today’s workplace. Take a longer view and you might be surprised at how you look at your organization entirely differently.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.