The Real Reason You Were Fired (Hint: “Team Fit” Was a Cover)

Need help figuring out this vague catch-all phrase?

I recently met with a young man who is reeling from being fired by a rapidly growing megachurch. The reason they gave for firing him just a few months after he was hired: “You’re not a team fit.” I don’t know the young man well, and I’m only vaguely familiar with the church he was fired from. There may be solid grounds for letting the young leader go. But the “not a team fit” label has become the wonderfully vague catch-all phrase when firing staff members. To quote the ’70s theologian Dave Mason:

There is no good guy, there is no bad guy. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear what’s really going on when a leader throws the “not a team fit” card. It might sound more like this:

Why We’re Really Firing You

1. We don’t develop people.

We talk about people development, but we just don’t have the time. We are hyper-focused on our mission and we can’t slow down to help someone we think is a B player become an A player. That’s why we almost always hire from the outside and why we have a ‘hire slow/fire fast” philosophy.

2. We value results over people.

We have a set of metrics we have to hit, and our staff is simply a means to that end. If you hit your goals you have a seat on the bus, if you miss the mark its time for you to go. Producers advance, non-producers move on.

3. Our ingrown culture is our top priority.

Our culture is defined by cronyism, inside jokes and unwritten rules, and we like it that way. It is difficult to understand how things really work around here and even harder for an outsider to break in. We thought you might be “one of us,” but you’re not.

4. We can’t afford to pay you anymore.

We thought we had room in the budget for you, but it didn’t work out that way. Income hasn’t increased they way we thought it would, and we’re unwilling to cut anywhere else. We could try to be more fiscally responsible, but the easiest way to balance the books is to fire you.

5. You’re a goober.

We thought you were sharp when we hired you, but it turns out you’re a goober. You’re opinionated, lazy and infuriating. No one wants you on their team because you constantly make excuses and irritate everyone around you. You may be a fit somewhere, but we’re just tired of you.

The challenge, whether you are firing someone or being fired, is to be honest. Don’t hide behind phrases like “team fit” and “cultural differences,” get to the root of why you are parting ways. It’s the only way organizations and leaders can grow.

Geoff Surratt
Geoff Surratt, having served Saddleback Church as Pastor of Church Planting and Seacoast Church as Executive Pastor, is now the Director of Exponential. ( He also works with churches on strategy, structure and vision as a free agent church encourager and catalyst. He has over twenty-nine years of ministry experience in the local church and is the author of several books including The Multisite Church Revolution and 10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing.