More readers pounce on this post. One writes:
Your private sector comparison works only if you say, "Imagine an established, long-term, successful employee in a business who has been around and doing very well for the company for many years. Then he has a bad performance review." Should he be fired right away? I think you'd agree the answer should be no.
You suggested, "Now do this thought experiment and try and simulate it in a private sector context." We just did in full light of the nation. We bailed out the investment banks. Bailed out their CEOs. The CEOs kept paying bonuses to the very folks who gambled the nation's money to such a degree that the very same school kids will be paying off that debt for much of their lives. They kept their jobs and got paid millions for screwing up so badly that you and I had to bail them out.
You're not arguing against the reality of the private sector but rather some idealized private sector.
You're also not arguing against the reality of the public sector, where a tenured teacher in my daughter's public school was fired within a week for insulting a student. The real private sector is every bit as dysfunctional as the public sector, and the public sector is not nearly as dysfunctional as anecdotes would suggest.
Another excerpts from the original post:
No, the principal then must wait 100 days. And that's the concession. My own view is that if unions did less protection of mediocrity and more protection of wages and benefits, their general image would improve drastically. But they cannot expect to continue their bad old ways and win public support in recessionary America.
Actually, that's not all that different from a lot of jobs in the private sector. Typically, at least in most corporate jobs, you're required (as a manager) to submit regular reports on employees who perform poorly, develop learning/action plans for them to improve, and firing takes a long, long time (provided the employee hasn't done anything egregious and just sucks at their job). In my company, employees who are on these types of action plans are far more likely to be laid off in a Reduction In Force (RIF) than they are likely to get fired for poor performance.
I'm a little sympathetic to your point, but Weingarten's proposal actually lines up with the corporate world fairly well. Most of the time, you can't just fire someone because they suck.
I’ve fired people in the private sector and the lawyers are very involved. You have to start documenting everything the employees did wrong. You have to sit with them and explain what is wrong and come up with a plan to put them back on track. Then you have to give them time to make progress, and if they make any progress, you have to keep up the talk/plan/evaluate/document thing for longer than I’d ever want to. Granted, you can get somebody out the door for pure performance reason in less than a year, but even in the private sector it takes time to get rid of somebody without opening the company up to a lawsuit. (The exception is when the company has layoffs and you can dump without cause.)
I am a manager in the private sector. For six years I had an employee who was the best, the most knowledgeable, the most productive. Then a couple of years ago, his marriage fell apart and he fell into a depression. His productivity halved for almost a year. He was very flaky and unreliable. I hid this from my superiors by covering for him, myself working nights to make sure the team did enough work. This went on for almost a year as he struggled to make sense of his life. He finally did, as I had faith that he would, and now he is back, better than ever.
We are not a union operation. I wish that we were; I wish that he had someone to protect his back so I didn't have to take that burden by myself, alone.
First batch of dissents here.