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August 14, 2013

AOL CEO Fires Employee During Call Intended to Boost Morale

Imagine getting fired.  Think how you might feel.  Then think about getting fired in front of a peer.  What about in front of 1,000 employees? Still worse, by the CEO.

A bad dream?

Not so.  This was the reality for an employee at AOL last week.

According to Business Insider, last week AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong told Wall Street they’re cutting Patch – AOL’s local news network – websites from 900 to 600.  In response, Patch employees understandably were concerned about their jobs.

As a next step, Armstrong got on a conference call with those 1,000 Patch employees with the intention of boosting morale and to talk about what’s next. Instead, he took a very no-holds-barred approach to the conversation and ended up firing Patch’s Creative Director, Abel Lenz in front of those employees.  

And it’s all on tape.

Two minutes into the recording, obtained by media business blog Romenesko, Armstrong addresses Lenz, asks him to put a camera down, and tells him he’s fired, without really skipping a beat.

Some background – Lenz is known for and in charge of taking photos during meetings with key leaders for Patch’s internal website so remote workers can see them. So this hardly seems like he was doing something out of line.

The one out of line was Tim Armstrong.

To me this is inexcusable behavior that’s reminiscent of a bully on a playground.  It goes into the “you’re not going to believe what just happened” category.

Armstrong owes Lenz a formal apology.  

Late yesterday, Armstrong sent AOL employees an apology and cited an apology to Abel. What took him so long?

Have a bad behavior story?  Please share it so we can all learn from it.

-          David Grossman


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