You Can't Fire Everyone: And Other Lessons from an Accidental Manager

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Release Date: 
March 16, 2011
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If your main goal in life is to be a supervisor, the boss, or the Big Kahuna, you might want to rethink that career goal by reading You Can’t Fire Everyone: And Other Lessons from an Accidental Manager by veteran journalist Hank Gilman.

Here’s the headline: Be careful what you wish for.

The promise of more responsibility and more money can make many people feel like they’ve finally “made it,” while others, such as the author, wonder what the hell they did wrong to earn the title “Boss.”

This enjoyable read written by the Deputy Managing Editor of Fortune magazine describes the ups and downs of working for the Boston Globe, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal.

Managing artistic-types such as journalists and photographers can’t be easy while trying to put out a top-notch publication, and Mr. Gilman admits that he learned the hard way how to keep the drama to a manageable level.

He writes; “In my business, we find bosses by taking talented writers, waving a wand and saying, ‘Hey, congratulations, you’re now supervising a dozen people. And by the way, good luck.’”

If you’ve ever seen a newspaper editor sitting under the ugly fluorescent lights in a newsroom looking like they would rather be anywhere on the planet other than the newsroom, you’ll understand what Mr. Gilman is writing about.

But you don’t have to be in journalism to get what he’s saying; plenty of people start their careers by coming to work every day and enjoying their job—and suddenly they are kicked upstairs and find themselves in charge of people and their lives. No matter how big the salary or the cojones, its scary business.

Mr. Gilman explains that just because you now have a bigger office/cubicle, you need to continue being yourself when you get that new parking space. He shares tips for managing the creative types that fill newsrooms and has penchant for comparing certain styles of management with winning coaches and athletes. Which is fun.

The author shares lessons he’s learned during his two decades as a manager offering advice on the ins and outs of recruiting, hiring, motivating and firing employees.

“Someone once said that the best way to fire someone is to get them so mad they’ll quit. That’s how most bosses operate. We’re chicken. So what’s more humane? Fire them quickly or let them anguish in a job they have no chance of excelling at? You make the call.”

Mr. Gilman deals with issues such as hiring friends—a no-win situation because usually you will end up firing that friend as well as losing the friendship. He explains why you shouldn’t hire people just because someone else says you have to as well as firing them because you boss said so. He tackles the ever-so-confusing Gen Y’ers who could care less if they get fired as well as the prima donnas and the suck-ups who probably should be fired.

Working in journalism—once an exciting and cutting-edge career—can take a toll on the best of writers and editors who are always worried about losing their jobs, but Mr. Gilman seems to have figured out the who, what, where, and why of managing people.

This book is a great read that moves along quickly and is filled with practical advice for anyone thinking of managing anyone in any capacity. As for Mr. Gilman and his job security—he probably isn’t going to need an exit plan for a very long time.