Tough Decisions Are Necessary – Abandoning Your Values Isn’t

Making tough decisions is what founders and CEOs sign up for. It comes with the territory. Tough decisions are tough because they hurt people. However, there’s a distinct difference between a tough decision and a dishonorable one. I was chatting with a founder in a difficult spot who may have conflated the two.

His company is facing a challenging time and he needs to reduce his staff. That was a tough decision, but it was one that he had to make for the company to survive. I asked how he intends to handle the transition of departing employees. He said he plans to pay severance but not sales commissions earned. The team worked hard in anticipation of being paid commissions, and now they won’t receive them. The founder has the money to pay them, but he’s choosing not to.

Downsizing the team to give the company a fighting chance at long-term survival is a tough call. It sucks, but it has to be done. If it’s not, the company could die. Some won’t understand this decision now, but they will if the company starts thriving and hopefully hiring again. Not paying people what they’ve earned is different. No matter what happens in the future, everyone will remember how part of the team was treated on the way out. It shows the company has questionable values. It’s likely to lead to a variety of unintended consequences. It’s not how people should be treated and is simply the wrong decision.

Founders will find themselves in tough spots during their entrepreneurial journey. Navigating these situations will require tough decisions, but founders shouldn’t use them as an excuse to detour from personal or company values. They should still do the right thing.