Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase on Termination

 Credit Steve Jurvetson  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23967924

Credit Steve Jurvetson  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23967924

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s career took shape when he was the protégé of Sandy Weill, the man who built Citigroup into a Wall Street behemoth.  But over time, relationship of these two men grew increasingly complicated and strained until suddenly – in 1998 – Weill abruptly fired Dimon.

Many years after his dismissal, I ask Dimon – who had by this time re-built his career to new heights - if having been the subject of a high-profile termination made him handle these situations differently.  His voice and entire demeanor softening, he says, “Absolutely. You go through it and you know what it feels like to go home that day and explain to people that you don’t have a job.  I told people that it was my net worth, not my self worth involved, but it was hard.”

And what specifically did he learn from this experience? “When I got fired, I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to people.  They just said, ‘You’re out.’ The company had been part of my family for years.  So yes, I learned a lot about how to do it, and how not to do it.  First of all, do it with respect for people.  I have never laid someone off and made an example of them – ever - unless they did something unethical.  Because to most people, you have to say, ‘Look, you’ve been here for fifteen or twenty years, you’ve given the company a lot,’ and I’ve always tried to give parties so that people can say goodbye and wish people well.  I say, ‘Whether or not you like me or think I’m making the right decision, there are a lot of people here who would like to say goodbye and thank you, and I will publicly thank you for what you did for the company.’  I think it’s a terrible thing when companies hang people high to make examples.”

Jamie Dimon has learned from firsthand experience that it is equally important to treat people well on their way out of a company as it is while you’re recruiting them or while they work for you.  The people being shown the door will likely never work for you again, but those who remain will take notice of how their dismissed colleagues were treated. “People want to see that you treat people with respect,” he says, “And they think, if this ever happens to me, how will they do it to me?”

 

Takeaways

I’ve never been fired.  This is not to brag, as I’ve quit jobs in the past and who knows, had I over-stayed my welcome it’s very possible that I’d have been shown the door!  On the one hand, I consider myself lucky, but it’s clear from hearing this personal story from someone as accomplished as Jamie Dimon, that being on the receiving end of a termination can provide an invaluable learning opportunity that, if internalized and remembered, will contribute to more empathetic and higher-integrity leadership practices down the road.

December 1, 2017