Human Resources News & Insights

A public firing? Sure, that’ll raise employee morale

Want to fire up your employees with a personal gung-ho message from the Big Boss? You probably don’t want to follow this guy’s example.   

Done correctly, town hall-style meetings where upper management talks directly to rank-and-file staffers and “rallies the troops” can be great morale boosters. What took place at a recent AOL meeting, however, was quite the opposite.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong made waves when his recent conference call went viral for all of the wrong reasons.

Armstrong held an “all-hands” conference call with more 1,000 people listening in to discuss cutbacks to AOL’s local news service, Patch.

According to reports, the call, which was held the day after Patch cutbacks were announced, was geared toward boosting the morale of the employees who remained with the news website.

But then something went very, very wrong.

‘Put that camera down right now’

Armstrong started the call by assuring understandably worried employees that AOL was still committed to Patch’s success — and he even asked employees who didn’t believe him to quit then and there.

But when Patch’s creative director, Abel Lenz, started snapping photos during the speech, Armstrong went from asking less-than-dedicated workers to quit to actually firing one high-ranking employee.

According to a recording of the call, Armstrong stopped his conference and said, “Abel, put that camera down right now. Abel, you’re fired. Out.”

After about 10 awkward seconds, Armstrong went back to talking about the cutbacks without any explanation to the knee-jerk firing.

Armstrong said Lenz had been warned about taking photos during confidential company meetings, but there have been reports the firing was likely due to comments Lenz made regarding Patch 2.0.

After the incident, Armstrong made a public apology by sending a memo to employees saying, “I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz.”

This post also appeared on our sister website, HRBenefitsAlert.com.

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