For 15 years, Dale Dauten has written a
Corporate Curmudgeon,” humorously poking
the business world in the ribs while
keeping a secret from his loyal readers
who find him in 30 newspapers around the
Dauten, a long-time Kyrene Corridor
resident, recently turned 56. And he is
anything but curmudgeonly.
He is tall, lean, gracious and
ever-smiling as he describes his new
Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire
and De-Hire Their Way to Success,
and tries repeatedly to explain to a
skeptic the fine distinction between
firing an employee and “de-hiring” him.
Dauten cheerfully admits he never has
seen a book title with the first word in
parentheses. He likes being different,
That’s about as curmudgeonly as Dauten
gets, it seems.
He may be a wiseacre – there’s a trace
in that smile of his – but he’s also a
student of Zen who seems to call on that
training before trying once again to
explain why “de-hiring” is better than
firing when the employee is out of a job
The concept of de-hiring takes up a good
chunk of (Great) Employees Only,
a short book that can be read in a
couple of hours if you don’t stop to
argue Dauten’s theories or get
sidetracked by your own memories of
bosses who were decidedly not the
“gifted” leaders he describes.
Dauten envisions a corporate world where
these “gifted” bosses spend their time
building teams of “allies” by hiring
“stars” and “de-hiring” mediocre
employees; where a boss doesn’t need to
“manage” employees, only “inspire” them;
and where the allies cooperate so well
that an outside observer has trouble
telling who is the boss and who are the
(Great) Employees Only
suggests that a gifted manager spends 90
percent of his or her time hiring and
de-hiring employees, 10 percent
inspiring, and no time at all
“It’s getting the right people in the
right place,” he says.
A gifted boss keeps a treasure trove of
potential “stars” just waiting for an
opening on the team and wastes little
time on mediocre, or “second-rate,”
“If you have even one mediocre employee
you have announced to the world that
mediocrity is okay by you,” Dauten
That sounds curmudgeonly, to be sure.
But he softens his stance when you’re
sitting across from him in his home
office, his two dachshunds curled on a
nearby chair, and he’s trying one more
time to explain de-hiring.
“I’m assuming this is a decent human
being dealing with another decent human
being,” he says.
“Firing is when the manager makes the
decision,” he explains. De-hiring is the
boss explaining what the employee needs
to do to remain and what his or her
options might be if those expectations
are not met.
“You give them a choice, that’s the
difference; the employee has the choice”
to raise himself to the boss’s
expectations or go somewhere else,
whether that be a transfer to another
department where the once-mediocre
employee can become a “star” or out of
the company altogether.
He also softens his stance on what
exactly is “mediocre.”
At first he labels any average employee
as “mediocre,” then softens it to
“average or below average” before
switching terms to “first-rate and
second-rate” and spare the feeling of
the merely “average.”
But he firmly urges bosses to hire only
“stars” and suggests star employees
search for gifted bosses rather than
“I believe everybody can be a ‘star’
somewhere,” Dauten says.
As evidence, he tells the story of when
he operated a market-research business
in California. There was an employee – a
woman who shall be named in a minute –
who just wasn’t making the grade,
according to boss Dauten.
He fired that woman four separate times,
he says, even though she was, and still
is, his own wife, Sandy.
“You’re talking about bosses who are
warm, caring and loving,” he said, back
on his theory of “de-hiring” employees
so they will go somewhere else and
In Dauten’s vision, even employees who
lose their jobs, if properly de-hired,
remain the gifted boss’s allies forever,
and good things happen to all.
“You’re always looking to get the spiral
going up, not down,” he said.
“The gifted boss. You believe it because
it’s true: They’re there to make you
“If somebody really cares about you and
is trying to make you better, they’re
committed to being lifelong allies,
that’s starting to look like love,” he
Dauten said he plans to add a feature to
web surfers can hear him explain his
theory of de-hiring.
For those who want to hear it in person,
he will be speaking at 7 p.m. Wednesday,
Oct. 11, at Changing Hands Bookstore,
6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe.