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Is There Ever a Good Time to Talk About People Who Got Fired To Your Employee Base?

In case you missed it, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong fired an executive while 1,000 or so fellow employees listened in last week - live.  You can check out the audio below, go to the 1:50 mark to hear the abrupt lead up to the firing at 2:00 in the recording:

In addition, here's a great rundown from Yahoo Finance:

During the first minute or so of the recording, Armstrong says things like: "If you don't believe what I'm about to say, I'm going to ask you to leave Patch…We have to get Patch into a place where it's going to be successful."

But then things go suddenly awry. At exactly two minutes into the recording, Armstrong addresses someone in the room with him. 

He says, "Abel, put that camera down, now."  Then, without taking a breath, Armstrong says, "Abel, you're fired. Out."

The person Armstrong is talking to in the recording is Abel Lenz, Patch's Creative Director. Obviously, Lenz is no longer with the company.

Armstrong picked an odd reason to fire him. We hear that Lenz, based in New York, would always take pictures of people talking on company-wide conference calls so that he could post them on Patch's internal news site."

It's an interesting scenario - Patch is a community-type of site where users uploading pictures is kind of critical to user adoption, so it makes sense that Lenz would snap pictures in his role.  Drink the kool- Abelaid/eat the dog food and all that.  Picture of the photo that got Lenz fired to the right.

I don't think any agrees that public firings are fair or in the best interest of any executive or manager from a reputation standpoint.  But It begs the question - is there ever a good time to talk about people who got fired to your employee base?

I think the answer is yes - there's a lot of ways that you should talk about people who just got fired - mainly to short-circut the rumor mill and reinforce what's required from a cultural/performance perspective.  Some ways that talking about people that just got fired to the employee base makes sense:

1. Gather your team up if someone just got fired - I'm talking about the team that they were a part of - and let the team know that you made the decision to end the relationship with "John".  You really have to do this.  Tell them what the decision was, then give them notes about what's important to you as a manager - which is code for what the person didn't do that got them fired.  

2. If the subject comes up in any type of random meeting - you get put on the spot or you hear people talking about someone who got fired - use the path outlined in #1.

3. Looking to really drive cultural fit?  In any type of all hands meeting you do in a company with specific size, talk about decisions that have been made in the scope of a few months related to firing people for violating cultural non-negotiatbles.  If you fired an ###hole in a given month, you can allude broadly to why you removed someone for these reasons.  A great way to put pressure on people and make co-workers stop feeling like they have to tolerate jerks.

4. If you're talking to someone who needs a wake up call, it's a great idea to talk broadly to that person on the cultural/performance side, comparing and contrasting their performance/behavior to people who have been fired in the recent past.  No names. Wake up, yo.

So don't fire people publicly.  But do talk about those who have been fired.  No specifics related to name, lots of specifics related to why you fired them.



That was no a classy act on Armstrong's part, from a leadership or a person's standpoint. I do agree with the article, however, that it's important to clarify when and why someone is let go to circumvent rumors and to reinforce cultural/performance standards. I would argue, however, that it isn't fair to "make an example out of someone" either, though alluding to the shortcomings of a past employee can be helpful to current employees. Do not bind an individual to their failures; the failure was an event, not the identifier for that person.

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