Everybody is Entitled to be Treated with Dignity

Business Leader Post, February 29, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

I just worked with a partnership of four where one of the partners had gone off the “reservation” and they were stuck. They had asked him to resign and he had refused. There was sufficient knowledge about his behavior that could conceivably terminate him but one partner refused to vote for termination. They called me and I had suggested two days but my schedule was booked and I could only come for one. It was a very fragile situation. They had all known each other for over 30 years and had been partners for 25. Their families knew each other and had vacationed together; the partner who had been off the reservation’s daughter was going to be married in three weeks.

I came down and interviewed all of them including some employees who had worked with the renegade partner and I concluded that he had broken some ethical rules. Because the business relationships had floated into the personal, the source of the other partners' rage was rooted in how disappointed they as one might be when they felt betrayed by a family member.

The partner who could not vote for termination shared how conflicted he was. He told me that when he went to church that week he prayed for some guidance. As he was praying, the minister talked about treating everyone as a human being. Tears came to his eyes. (Believe me I was not going to challenge that level of authority). My recommendation was it was premature to come to any decision after one day. I suggested that I come back for a second day and we give the time that the complexity of the situation demanded.

The second day we met and began to deal with all the issues that had created the disconnect. There were lots of apologies and the renegade resigned. He knew it was time to go. Being terminated would have stripped him of his dignity. Participating in an honest and open discussion allowed him to resign and keep it.