Do our owners and leaders struggle, feel conflicted, hurt, or cry regarding the difficult decisions they make? The answer is, “yes.” Employees usually see only one side: When the leader has made the decision and appears to be calm, rational, and confident.

But there has always been another side. Today, leaders and small business owners are aching with the pain of every difficult decision they are forced to make.

The Business Owner

Rick has owned his business for twenty years. He put his life savings into it, but today it’s closed because it’s a “non-essential business.” He wonders if he’ll lose it all. How will he make his lease payment?

He’ll have to look into the eyes of faithful workers and let them go because he can’t afford to keep paying them when he has no income. Two conversations will be especially painful.

First, he’ll have to lay off his very first hire, Mary, a single mother of two teenage boys. He went to her wedding, watched her become a wonderful mother, and stood by her when she got divorced.

She’s always been a good worker. He thinks, How can I tell her she has no job? What will she do without an income? How will she provide for her boys? 

Then, he’ll need to let Maria go. She’s been with him for three years, but their relationship is a close one. She’s single, lives on her own, and her dad is a lifelong friend.

Maria struggled in school, which never came easy to her. Rick offered her the job as a favor to her dad, hoping it would give her the chance to be successful, believe in herself, and become independent.

And she’s flourished! But without this job, how will she survive? If his business closes altogether, who will hire her? And what will happen to his relationship with her dad?

The Senior-Level Manager

Carmen grew up in her organization. She worked her way to her current role as a divisional director and a member of her company’s senior leadership team. And that team is meeting today to figure out how to keep the company alive.

With the sudden drop in volume, they need to figure out how many staff members they really need. Will one round of layoffs be enough, or will they move to round two shortly?

Carmen knows each of them and their families. She thinks, What will happen to their lives? They didn’t do anything wrong—they’ve been faithful! 

Ironically, they still need some staff to stay productive, but many are afraid to come to work. Carmen worries, What do we do if they refuse to work? Do we terminate them, even though we understand their fears?

Carmen’s team also needs to think about the loyal customers who are behind on their invoices but need the company’s products to stay in business. Should they continue to sell to them?

A Message to Employees and Their Leaders

Employees, please know that your leaders and owners are struggling today because they care. There are no “good” decisions, only decisions about what is the best of some bad options. Leaders and owners must balance keeping a business viable with the livelihood of the employees. They care about both. Every decision is painful to make and will cause someone pain.

Leaders, I’m thankful for your leadership role today because I believe God has prepared you for this “mess” we are in. He’s equipped you to make thoughtful, caring, and important decisions. The pain you feel is part of the internal compass God installed within you to wrestle with what to do.

“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)

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