The Hardest Decisions

by Paul Blackwell

As COVID-19 affects the health of thousands and the finances of millions, Paul Blackwell, manager at Mitchell’s Towing, writes about the hardest decisions he has ever had to make.

I have seen some people complaining about their bosses and how they are handling the COVID-19 issues. Now, I am not saying all employers are handling it well but I want to offer insight into the management side of this crisis. (This is only from me personally as a person who is sitting with ownership and having to make some very tough decisions):

Originally published in Tow Canada, May-June 2020

I wake up at around 3:00 AM every day wondering what today will bring. Will this nightmare end? Have I been dreaming the whole time and everything is fine? Then I get up and get ready for work, head out to my truck, and realize very quickly it is not a dream, it is real.

There is no one on the streets heading to work and all the lights in houses are still off. As I drive down the deserted dark street towards the yard, it begins to hit me, what decisions will have to be made today? Whose lives will I have to affect in a negative way by informing them we can no longer employ them in these hard times?

As I arrive at work and enter my office, I just sit in my chair and think about all of this for a few minutes. I turn on my computer and see the postings of hundreds of thousands of more people applying for employment insurance this week, businesses closing, and people are starting to fall on financial and emotional hard times.

I truly believe that with all the right steps taken, we will survive this.”

I review the previous day’s work versus cost and quickly realize that adjustments have to be made to ensure the company can survive through these tough times. As some employees start to arrive at the office I have to put on the happy, this-is-all-going-to-work-out face and keep them all positive. Now do not get me wrong here, I do truly believe that with all the right steps taken, we will survive this.

But then, I sit down with the owner and see the next steps and where the business is at. After a long, exhausting meeting of making some of the hardest decisions ever, we have to enact it all.

These decisions affect not only the employee you are talking to but also their families at home.”

As we meet with each employee and inform them of the decisions and changes that need to happen, we are dying inside. These decisions affect not only the employee you are talking to but also their families at home.

As each employee meeting is over, we have to take a few minutes to just sit and try not to lose it, as we have to stay strong for the employees.

These decisions and meetings are some of the hardest that any manager or owner will have to do. You build a team over time and you feel like you are failing them at each and every step of this process. Yes, you know the decisions have to be made and that at the time these are best decisions, but they are the hardest ones.

So trust me when I say to all the employees, that the managers and owners are not making these decisions easily, they are losing sleep every night and it is having a huge mental impact on them.

So, everyone needs to stay safe. Do your part and try to keep your heads up, and we can make it through this.