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Laying Off Employees Is Stressful

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim. Image courtesy of Jungto Society

The Korean Seon (Zen) master Venerable Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님) wears many hats: Buddhist monk, teacher, author, environmentalist, and social activist, to name a few. As a widely respected Dharma teacher and a tireless socially engaged activist in his native South Korea, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim has founded numerous Dharma-based organizations, initiatives, and projects that are active across the world. Among them, Jungto Society, a volunteer-based community founded on the Buddhist teachings and expressing equality, simple living, and sustainability, is dedicated to addressing modern social issues that lead to suffering, including environmental degradation, poverty, and conflict.

The following article shared by Jungto Society is part of a series of highlights from Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s writings, teachings, and regular live-streamed Dharma Q+A sessions, which are accessible across the globe.

Q: I work in healthcare as a manager, and sometimes I need to let people go because of their performance. For some people, it’s not just about poor performance, but actually that their mistakes put some patients at risk. I try to give them enough chances and help them in any way I can, but for some employees, there’s just no option but to let them go.

Knowing their personal situations, I feel very bad about letting them go and also scared because recently in the US there was a FedEx employee who, after getting laid off, went back to his office and killed people.

I just want to ask you how can I do my job and handle laying off employees better?

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: If your role as a manager requires you to fire some people then either you continue working at your job or quit and change jobs.

If you want to continue your job for whatever reason, then you must accept the responsibility that comes with it and learn how to deal with it. If your job involves firing employees, obviously there’s always a risk of them being angry at you, which sometimes might lead to attacks.

In some ways, it is like volunteering to join the army. During peacetime it is a good job because you don’t have to risk your life, but if there’s a war, you may have to put your life at risk. Nevertheless, it’s a choice you’re making and there’s no other way.

If you make the choice to stay on, there may be small things you can do to lower the risk. For instance, instead of firing somebody with harsh language, try to explain that this is just your role. Say that you understand the person and that although this is not what you want to do, you have to do it because it’s your job. And explain that you are also an employee in the organization and that you also have to make a living.

Tell them as a person that it hurts you to do this, but because you have to fulfill your role you have no choice but to do so and that you are sorry. Then with those words you may decrease your risk a little. Obviously, that person will still be fired and may still be angry, but it’s better than kicking them out with harsh criticism.

So while understanding other people’s pain and feeling sorry about it, you should still be able to do your job.

No matter what consequences you face because of your choice, you should be able to handle it. It’s not a matter of which way is better; it’s about realizing that with every choice in life comes responsibility and consequences. And you should be aware of those before you make a choice. It is difficult, but if you try to avoid responsibility it becomes a source of suffering. There’s always a result based on a cause. If you provided the cause then you should be able to accept the result.

As long as you are in that position then there is a risk that you will be criticized. And a higher risk for you to be hated. But if you don’t like it, then change your job. But if there are reasons for you to stay on then be prepared to handle the consequences.

See more

Jungto Society
JTS Korea
JTS America
International Network of Engaged Buddhists

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