Trump’s message, with tact, was necessary

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 18, 2008

You’re fired! Donald Trump made the phrase seem somehow funny a few years ago on his TV reality show “The Apprentice.”

American TV viewers reveled as the New York real estate developer skewered young hopefuls before eventually bluntly saying, “You’re fired!”

Trump even worked to register the phrase as a trademark. Unfortunately, he is not the only person who has had to terminate an employee, though most probably don’t do so with the cockiness of Trump.

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Driving past Natchez Regional Medical Center Friday night, thoughts of the day’s events ran through my head along with a fleeting thought of Trump and how his brash style if far from reality for most managers.

Natchez Regional cut 65 jobs on Friday, with a promise that between 20 and 25 more will be cut in the next 60 to 90 days.

My heart goes out to the employees who were cut and their families, but also to the people who had to make the decisions and ultimately deliver the message.

Despite how cool and sexy Trump may have attempted to make the phrase, firing someone is never easy or fun.

As someone who has had to terminate a number of people through the years, believe me, it’s not something you look forward to doing.

In fact, it’s absolutely the worst thing a business manager or leader must do.

Firings, at their best, are not pleasant. At their worst, they’re downright painful.

Tears, accusations and attacks can occur. For the messenger, a churning stomach, sleepless nights, headaches and even an overriding feeling of guilt often occurs.

Unlike with Trump’s “on-a-whim” style of firing, Regional’s wasn’t personal and it wasn’t something that was optional.

The hospital, by all indications, was highly overstaffed. That’s one of the symptoms of being a public entity.

When you have virtually no one as a stakeholder like other businesses do, often no one pays too much attention to the bottom line or the ability of the institution to sustain itself long-term.

Private or public ownership would have likely made smaller cuts years ago to keep the hospital’s staff in line with national trends, local competition and just common sense.

But Regional doesn’t really have a directly connected stakeholder or owner. Taxpayers own the building, but the facility is operated a bit independently.

Rumors have flown for years that the hospital served as a “job bank” of sorts for some county supervisors who saw to it that friends and family received jobs at the hospital.

If that was true, and personally I’ve never seen direct evidence that it was, that system began to end on Friday.

The old way of doing things will continue to go away as the new hospital CEO and the newly awakened Board of Trustees and county supervisors make serious decisions about the hospital’s future.

One bright spot, if there can be such in a day of bad news for so many employees, was the hospital’s decision to reverse the bad decision — by a previous management company — to cut staff salaries across the board by 5 percent. That was an ill-conceived Band-Aid when major surgery was needed.

If the surgery performed Friday is a success, the hospital’s direction could be turning.

Even after the cuts, Natchez Regional is still one of the biggest employers around and it’s a critical part of our area’s healthcare.

Let’s hope Friday’s dark cloud clears soon and good news begins flowing from the hospital. We’ve had enough of the Donald Trump moments lately.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or