Talk about it before you blow it.

4 09 2015

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I once had to accompany HR to a termination of an employee who was recorded being verbally abusive to their manager.  This employee was, in my opinion up until then, one of the strongest employees that we had.  However, the extent of the abuse and insubordination was such that there was no other option but termination.  It became pretty clear to me that this abuse was the culmination of many small frustrations that he could no longer control, so he blew up – he hit his final straw.  The specifics of the abuse that I heard on the recording, as well as the HR person who was with me has faded to a fuzzy memory.  But what I still remember like it just happened was when this employee looked into my eyes, and said how sorry he was that he disappointed me.  He didn’t apologize for the frustration or the outburst, but for disappointing me.  I must admit, there was a tear in my eye as I shook his hand, and I felt like I failed him, too.

The leadership take away is that after I finished with this termination, I was tempted to fire the manager who received the verbal abuse, because they had pushed this otherwise excellent employee, slowly and insidiously over time, into this fit of rage.  I could not fire the manager because there was no documentation, but you can bet that the conversation that we had changed the managers attitude, or at least their behavior.  If you’re feeling the urge to blow up on someone, be sure to find someone else to talk to.  Ensure that your staff know that they can vent to you without punishment.  Don’t let one day’s anger change the course of a career.

Speaking of infinite…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

To fund the cartoonist’s son’s admirable crowd-sourcing classical music video, check it out at




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