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Monday Morning Quarterback: Would You Fire this Southwest Pilot?

Most of you probably missed this one last week.  Southwest had a pilot who went on a NSFW rant about the attractiveness and orientation of the flight attendant crews he was assigned to - seems like the rant was caught over the air traffic control system, then of course grabbed and made viral by someone in the ATC.

Result - many videos and viral distribution of the pilot's rant via the interwebs.

Your task - should you choose to accept it - is to listen to the Pilot's rant and tell me whether he should be fired or not.  Take a listen (warning - if you're sensitive, don't listen to it, be careful on speakers at work - earbuds are the best approach) and let me know what you think.  My comments after the jump. 

The Huffington Post is reporting the pilot has been reinstated after undergoing diversity training.

There are unions involved, blah, blah, blah.  I think Southwest deserves the benefit of the doubt based on their track record on the people side, but don't you have to term this guy?  Lots of crazy comments about fellow associates that would allow most of us with a sensible Professional Conduct policy to squeeze the trigger.

I get that stuff happens.  You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.  I'd vote term.

What say you?  Just another thing you get paid to do in your career as a Human Resources, employment law, talent pool and workforce planning expert...

Comments

Andy Von Kennel

Term. Got to go. Personal POVs are allowed but can't share everything at work. Dude, was upset.

Karla Porter

I agree with the way SW handled the situation. His private conversation didn't reveal anything but his feelings - no act of discrimination, harassment or anything else. I just listened to this with my HR Intern and she brought up an excellent point. What about the co-pilot he was speaking with? Why didn't he/she object that the conversation was offensive?SW comes out of this on top, standing up for diversity in my opinion. Bravo to the pilot on the airwaves that commented 'no wonder pilots have a bad reputation'. This guy wants to be surrounded with sexy available flight attendants. He's probably in the majority.

Ed Newman

Great question KD.

This is a tough decision for any business leader, unless the guy was a lousy pilot too. The fact that they kept him is either because he is good at what he does, or union influence.

All unions aside, and no matter how good he is at his job, I absolutely would terminate. It was not just an off hand remark - it was an angry rant. Too much of a red flag - if the guy ends up being convicted of a hate crime down the road - what will people think then?

Donna Caissie

I'd be tempted to fire him, too, and avert a future disaster, but right now all he's guilty of is bad judgment and stupidity. If we fired everyone who had a moment or two of stupidity, there'd be no one left to do the work.

They can put this guy through diversity training until the cows come home, but it won't change him. The only diversity training that might work with someone like him is being told "keep your opinions to yourself, keep your mouth shut, and if you do it again you're out of a job."

Not a wonder that he has no success in the bars.

Kudos to the ATC for maintaining a professional, grave tone of communication!

Casandra

Term him. The only way guys like this learn their lesson is though zero tolerance. If a passenger had said this on the plane they would have been kicked off the flight. Why in the world would we give this guy a slap on the wrist. It just empowers them to do it again only next time they will be more careful to whom they say it.

TJ

Absolutely terminate him. Lack of professionalism in what he said, causing a public embarrassment for Southwest, and on top of that that he broadcast it in a way that tied up air traffic communication for a few minutes. What if there had been an emergency in the midst of his rant?

Guy's getting off pretty easy if you ask me.

HRinSD

Ok, those of you voting with your thumbs down like the Roman Emperors of old and hearing the crowd chanting "finish him" to term (or maybe that's my playstation mortal combat in the background) must live in a less litigious state than CA.

Let's do the math...
-Any progressive discipline on file for the ee? Perhaps not.

-Pull the past performance review. Did his manager pass him with "meets expectations"? Play the averages, say yes.

-Past company practice of terming pilots for using innapropriate language? I'm guessing a lot of people have used naughty language.

So the better question is not yes/no on the term, but what for? Violation of conduct policy? Do you actually have a signed handbook acknowledgement on file for him or are you going with he should "know better". I think of summary termination as usually reserved for gross negligence, drugs, violence,theft, etc. Give him a firm and final and let him "off himself" the next time he screws up at something.

Or maybe the better question isnt yes/no or even what (reason) for, but when does HR have to suck it up and play defense and when do you stand on "culture" and impact to the team. This guy can sadly go back into the wash, not hang out to dry.

MattL

Caveat: I know nothing of the potential union difficulties.

When something is this severe and this public, it's no longer about the pilot. It's about the company's reputation and the morale/respect for other employees (as TJ said).

He's gone. While you can do it gently and get the guy some help if he wants it, this is a decision for the company.

And I agree with Cassnadra. It is the only way they learn their lesson. I've seen it happen before.

Interviewer

I wonder if his audience in the cockpit was as annoyed as the controller at ATC or other pilots who rushed to deny any responsibility for it.

Term. Quickly, quietly, but term.

HRchick

While in my heart of hearts, I want to term him, I really don’t know what grounds we have…he acted like a jerk and said inappropriate things? Seriously? If I termed people for that as a first offense, I’d have no one working here. So - is this a first time offense? Any history? Any pattern? Have we been aware of anyone else using inappropriate language and sentiment? How have they been handled? I would put him on a very short, very tight leash (PIP) and let him hang himself again. I also think he needs more that a diversity class. Maybe castration. Ok, kidding on that one, but I don’t think a diversity class is going to do it in this case.

Michelle

To me this comes down to what your company tolerates. A few have posted saying if they fired everyone who behaved like this no one would be left working at their company. Really? Maybe I am fortunate, but this would not be tolerated at my company. No way, no how. At the end of the day, what type of people do you want to work with? To represent your company?

In my opinion, if you don't have policies with some teeth in them that would support termination for a violation of company professionalism or values - you might want to think about it.

Alice

HOw about terming for a saftey violation - while he was ranting and raving, others were unable to use the radio frequency with the tower.

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