“Abel, you’re fired. Out!”
By now, you have most likely read about the firing of AOL Patch.com creative director Abel Lenz by the company’s CEO during a conference call attended by 1,000 employees. Business Insider first reported the story.
The Internet and social media-fueled outrage of such a public termination led Tim Armstrong to issue an apology, although AOL confirmed Lenz is no longer employed by the company. My initial take expressed via Twitter was critical of Armstrong as well.
— StrategicGuy (@StrategicGuy) August 15, 2013
However, further reflection has led me to evolve my thinking and identify (and even support) how Armstrong ousted Lenz.
For starters, the topic of the employee conference call was unpleasant. The day before Armstrong had publicly announced a reduction in the number of Patch.com’s local Web sites. That thinning was going to lead to significant staff layoffs.
It simply wasn’t the appropriate time for Lenz to snap photographs of the company’s CEO. His actions were disrespectful to Armstrong and other employees.
Additionally, Lenz was apparently far from a high performer at the company. According to a follow-on article in Business Insider, the major redesign of Patch.com that he was responsible for had been met with less than stellar reviews.
When an organization struggles and becomes stagnant, it is often a responsibility of its leadership to raise the intensity level and shake employees from their comfort zone. Yes, this can be painful, yet in many instances it is absolutely necessary to signal change and inspire performance – even if the motivation is self-preservation.
This is the reason why I support Marissa Mayer’s decision to do away with teleworking at Yahoo.
And finally, Lenz isn’t some 16-year-old kid working a summer gig at the pool snack bar. He is a mature professional and an adult, and there is no reason to coddle him.
I fret that work environments in this country have become super-sensitive to confrontation. Perceived slights and a hint of disrespect can send employees into an unproductive tizzy.
We need to recognize the realities and competitive pressures of the global economy and that our continued leadership is absolutely dependent upon the ability to innovate and execute with tremendous precision.
There are no guarantees in work (or life). There’s only the opportunity to be successful.