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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ralph didn’t fire him. Clyde
had called his bluff, counting on his likeability to pull him through, and
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.