Does EVERYone deserve a second chance?

Mistakes are only bad if you don't learn from them.

Mistakes are only bad if you don’t learn from them.

“Everyone deserves a second chance.” It sounds overly optimistic to me, I absolutely hate blanket statements, but yet I still feel this is true given the appropriate situation. Of course I believe that in situations of gross negligence, theft, violence, or severe disrespect that employees should be dismissed immediately, but I think a lot can be said about a leader in how they deal with failing employees.

I was watching an interview last night of a CEO talking about how he every time he has given an employee a second chance, they have let them down, and he ended up terminating them all over again. He now has a flat policy that if someone has quit and/or been fired, they will never be allowed to work for his business again.


Obviously I do not know the exact circumstances as to why each employee for this man was fired, but it seems to me that having such a rigid policy could be detrimental to a company. Often when an employee fails it isn’t just the employee who is at fault. I think blame can also lie with leaders as well.

Maybe it’s the (soon to be) former teacher in me, but most experiences lend themselves to teachable moments. Often when there is a failure to meet expectations, it could be due to many reasons, not just employee incompetence. An effective leader must analyze the situation deeper, and reflect on their actions in regards to employee performance.

Effective leaders must ask themselves the following questions:
1. What have you done to ensure employee success? Could you share in the blame?
2. Were your expectations clear and attainable?
3. Can this serve as a lesson to help further strengthen the employee’s skills?
4. Were your requests of the employee reasonable?
5. Do you hold yourself to the same standards you expect of others?

Employees must be encouraged to take risks, and as long as these risks are taken in the best interest of the company, leaders must be willing to accept failure from time to time. Allow these shortcomings to be coachable opportunities in which you can reflect with your employees, analyze their mistakes, and collaborate on new strategies to ensure success in the future.

Employees who take risks can achieve incredible rewards.

Employees who aren’t afraid to take risks can achieve incredible rewards.

By treating subpar moments as a more positive learning opportunity, your employees will actively seek your advice, and are more likely to utilize your suggestions. If failure is met by a negative confrontation in which employees are belittled and/or they feel their job is threatened, employees will do their best to cover up their mistakes. Employees will be more loyal, and work harder for a leader that supports them even when they fail.


Does every employee need a second chance? I guess it all depends. Are you doing everything you can do to make that employee successful? Maybe their shortcomings are a reflection of the work environment you are creating for them. Create space, reflect, and see if there is something you can do to improve the situation.

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