A tale of two firings

    Two of my favorite employees got the ax last week. They were both young, smart and loaded with potential. And they were both fired for cause.
   End of similarities.
    The difference lies in the reasons they were fired. Billy was sent packing because he was tapping the till, whereas Clyde was only tapping our patience.
    Clyde deserved some compassion; Billy deserved some strangulation.
    Billy was the first to go. There had been others before him who had been caught stealing from the company and inevitably there will be more. But Billy was a major shocker to all of us.
    When a employee has been around for three years, as had Billy, he becomes a part of the "family." He was no transient. He was a part of the scene, with many strong relationships with his co-workers.
    And his relationship with me was excellent. I bailed him out of numerous jams with loans or time off to help him solve his latest personal crisis, usually involving girlfriends or cars. I’d kid him about his fast-paced life, and he’d always be quick with a retort.
    Imagine my surprise when our security cameras videotaped him not ringing a sale on the register and pocketing the cash.
    Angry? I suppose so. But more than that, a sense of sadness and resignation. My eyes were being forced open once again, and it was disheartening to think about what I was seeing.
    When confronted, Billy had no choice but to admit the videotaped theft. He said he needed money and thought he’d asked me for too many loans. (All of Billy’s loans had been paid back – now I know how.)
    And naturally, he adamantly insisted that the incident in which he was caught was the only time he had ever stolen anything from the company.
    "Gee, Bill," I said, "what terrible luck you have, getting caught your first time."
    He shrugged. "It’s the truth."
    Goodbye, Billy. If we could prosecute you, we would.
   Clyde was another story, in some ways even sadder. If we liked Billy, then we loved Clyde. Bright and personable, Clyde was a delight to be around. He started with the company about two years ago and was on his way to a management position. He was also one of our top salespeople.
    He had everything going for him, except a sense of time.
    That’s right, Clyde got fired for being late. No other reason. His record was impeccable in all other areas.
    Some people act in mysterious ways. Clyde had no savings and could not afford to lose his job. He was making a decent wage, probably more than he will immediately find in the current job market, if he finds any at all. But he threw it all away.
    When he began showing up late the first few times, his immediate supervisor gently warned him about the need to come to work on time. He was promptly late three more times the next week.
    Ralph, my general manager, was next to talk to him. When he came in late after Ralph’s lecture, he got a written warning. Finally, Ralph told him that if he was late one more time he’d be fired.
    The next week he was late only twice.
    Ralph didn’t fire him. Clyde had called his bluff, counting on his likeability to pull him through, and it did.
    Finally, it was my turn. I don’t usually get involved, but Clyde was indeed special. I talked to him at length, pleading for him to get to work on time. I told him the consequences if he failed again.
    And it worked! For two weeks he showed up early. The third week he was late twice again.
    Ralph and I huddled and miserably decided we had no choice. There were 45 other employees in the company who had watched Clyde pull in to work a half-hour late time and again without penalty. Why couldn’t they come in when they felt like it?
    Clyde had called our bluff one too many times. We decided to fire him at the beginning of his shift last Tuesday. Naturally, he was a half-hour late for his own hanging – something about car trouble.
    He took the news relatively well. He had no more excuses and no idea what he would do.
    Like Billy, he was gone. The company was in mourning for both, but for vastly different reasons.


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