Is it time to fire your CEO?

The internet was abuzz last week with the news that Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason was fired. Not much of the attention was about the company’s recent performance or financial prospects, however; it was mostly about Mason’s resignation letter, which began:andrew mason

“After four-and-a-half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why, you haven’t been paying attention.”

The firing doesn’t seem to have come as much of a surprise to Mason, who was named “Worst CEO of 2012” by CNBC commentator Herb Greenberg. CEO firings are typically based either on personal behavior (lying on a resume, having an affair, assault) or professional incompetence (usually measured by company performance, projections, or stock prices). In the extensive news coverage and commentary on CEO firings, I didn’t find anyone who came close to Mason’s blunt admission that “As CEO, I am accountable.”

(Incidentally, this got me to wondering: What exactly do CEOs do? According to O*NET: “Determine and formulate policies and provide overall direction of companies or … organizations within guidelines set up by a board of directors or similar governing body. Plan, direct, or coordinate operational activities at the highest level of management with the help of subordinate executives and staff managers.”)

In the current career landscape, we’re all CEOs of Me, Inc. – and this is an awesome responsibility. As the inexperienced Mason learned, sometimes we screw it up. Then what? If you’re an actual company, it comes down to three choices:

  • Keep doing the same thing and hope it turns out;
  • Fire the CEO; or
  • Turn the company around.

What does this mean if you’re a job seeker? Some of you are going to refuse to make changes even when it’s become apparent you’re headed down the wrong path; maybe you’ve invested a lot of time and money into the education for this job and want to see it pay off no matter how much you suffer in the process.

Maybe you’re really invested in the impressive-sounding job title, especially if you’ve worked hard to get there.

Maybe you feel this is the job everyone expects you to have (I used to see this with traditional college students struggling through a major chosen by their parents) and you don’t want to lose face or disappoint anyone.

Maybe the thought of making a change is too frightening to seriously contemplate, or you don’t feel you have the luxury of pursuing a career you enjoy because other people are counting on you.

Maybe it’s not quite bad enough to go through all the introspection and effort of making a change. Whatever your reasons, sometimes best choice might be putting your head down and slogging through to the other side.

(…to be continued…)


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