Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When employment termination decisions become really easy

While people in the workplace generally get along, there are times when problems can occur. It would be great to say that when evidence of a problem appears, wise hands could immediately step in to defuse the situation. Unfortunately, problems usually do not appear in such a way that it's obvious to everyone. Perhaps it's just a gesture, or a whispered comment, or an isolated incident. In such a case, what do you do?

Here's a situation that was documented in "Clients from Hell":

The lights were off and I was standing at the front of the room by the projection screen when I said, “This is the part that really shows off what our application does. This is where we get the client excited about it.” The new employee’s immediate response was to hoot and holler like a maniac as she pulled her shirt above her head to reveal her exposed bra.

The presenter and the new employee were the only two people in the room. There were no other witnesses to this work-inappropriate behavior.

The presenter wasn't sure what to do, so he left the room, went into another room with two female co-workers, and was about to ask them for advice. Then, suddenly, the new employee walked into the room. Now what do you do? Do you state what happened, knowing full well that the new employee could deny it and you'd have egg on your face throughout the company?

Clients from Hell describes what happened next:

The other co-worker again asked what the problem was, to which the offender replied, “Oh, it was no big deal. I just lifted up my shirt… Like this!” She proceeded to do it again, horrifying her audience.

Even with multiple witnesses, the presenter was still uncertain about how to proceed. He was discussing this with another co-worker, when he happened to look out the window...

...but you'll have to go to Clients from Hell to see what happened next. I will tell you, however, that she was terminated that day - and it wasn't for exposing her bra.

Now in most cases in which an employee engages in inappropriate behavior, the employee doesn't usually voluntarily engage in the inappropriate behavior in front of multiple witnesses at multiple times. But this new employee was presumably eager to facilitate the process. Or something.
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