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Ignore the fact we fired the last guy who spoke up. Anyone else want to say anything?
October 10, 2002 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Ignore the fact we fired the last guy who spoke up. Anyone else want to say anything? Aquila head asks for comments, and fires the guy who points out that the $7.6 million severance package given to his brother would have kept 152 employees on the payroll at $50,000 each. (He also copied 1 or 2 thousand of his closest friends.) Who's right here? Would you express yourself freely?
posted by kcmoryan (37 comments total)

 
The guy had already been fired. What's the big deal?
posted by rosmo at 6:38 AM on October 10, 2002


The guy's got a strong point, but he was clearly trying to draw the foul here. If it comes out later that he'd been trying to get make his point to upper management without success, then maybe the tactic of CCing the message to a thousand people is legitimate. Otherwise, he pretty much screwed himself.
posted by GreyWingnut at 6:41 AM on October 10, 2002


Would you express yourself freely?

I would if I had nothing to lose like that guy. I'm sure Richard known around the office as:



Dick Green
posted by Witty at 6:42 AM on October 10, 2002


The guy had already been fired.

No, it was the e-mail that got him fired. There's a convoluted sentence in the story which threw me on first reading, but it does show effect following cause here:
The message [meaning Green's Wednesday e-mail to employees] was sent five days after employee Steve Millan was told by his supervisor not to return to work after sending Green an e-mail criticizing a $7.6 million severance package given to Green's brother...
posted by GreyWingnut at 6:47 AM on October 10, 2002


The "related link" at the bottom provides a little more context. He had accepted another position, however, at the time he sent his e-mail.
posted by kcmoryan at 6:52 AM on October 10, 2002


The fact that he had accepted another position only serves to highlight the hypocrisy of Dick Green's mail. The only person prepared to tell Senior Management what everybody is pissed off about is the man who no longer needs the job. If people are that scared then attempting to show open and accountable mgmt is just bullshit.
posted by niceness at 6:57 AM on October 10, 2002


He had accepted another position, however, at the time he sent his e-mail.

That does change the context significantly. Guess he was just following through on the fantasy of many soon-to-leave employees to stick it to the old employer as they go.
posted by GreyWingnut at 6:58 AM on October 10, 2002


GreyWingnut

That doesn't change the validity of what he said in his email, or the fact that Green's got some balls to come back and ask other employees for suggestions and comments.

After all the terrified employees say nothing, he'll just go on to say "See, everyone is happy here!"
posted by eas98 at 7:15 AM on October 10, 2002


That is rich! It just makes me smile that Steve Millan had the balls to say what he thought! Way to go little man! It was of no consequence to him whether or not anything came of his email since he had another job already. I'm sure he did it for the sheer satisfaction of doing it. I certainly appreciate that!
posted by foxyfoxinsox at 7:26 AM on October 10, 2002


OK, I work for corporate thugs, and I had to learn this lesson the hard way (though not so hard as thousand-email-Bob, here), but when upper management says they want comments, your best move is to shut the hell up.

There is a place for brutal honesty, for saying what you think is right (as opposed to palatable) in a corporate environment. It is NOT when the boss says "Anybody have anything they'd like to say?" It's later, in the Man's (or Woman's) office, with the door closed and his (or her) assistant safely out making copies of her (or his) butt or something.

I can't imagine that this guy had worked for this company for any length of time and did not realize that this was going to get a #10 can tied to his ass. Someone is Making A Pointtm here, and got exactly what he wanted, I think.
posted by UncleFes at 7:49 AM on October 10, 2002


This Dick Green doesn't seem like much of a leader - if the guy was leaving anyway, why did he sack him. Nobody would have been any the wiser if the boss had been a little wiser.
posted by niceness at 8:41 AM on October 10, 2002


I agree. Once they've spent at least one year in corporate america, most people are not prone to doing CLM's (Career Limiting Moves) like this unless they have nothing to lose and have carefully calculated and planned the results of their actions.
posted by SpecialK at 8:46 AM on October 10, 2002


Millan was told Friday that he had violated the company's e-mail policy by sending the message to other employees.

Makes sense to me. It was a harsh punishment, but if I owned a business and someone that I was paying a salary to used my email system to spread negative propagada about my company, to my employess, I wouldnt be able to think of a good reason for keeping him.

The man has a right to say whatever he wants but he doesnt have a right to work there.
posted by Recockulous at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2002


I've got to agree with Recockulous. Being free to express your opinion doesn't erase that ideal that you should still go about expressing it the right way. What he did was over the line.
posted by rampage at 9:16 AM on October 10, 2002


Because in the corporate world, truth is "over the line".
Play the game kid, take it up the ass for the team, don't be "negative".
Fuck that. Anybody that thinks that you should be polite or tactful while being ripped off is a fucking sheep on the way to be sheared. Baaaa.
posted by 2sheets at 9:55 AM on October 10, 2002


Actually, he made a significant miscalculation. 7.6 million wouldn't pay for 152 employees making 50K each. Companies spend a great deal more than base salary on each employee. I wouldn't be surprised if the cost to the company on a 50K employee would be closer to 100K, when you include unemployment taxes, employer FICA, benefits, etc...
posted by reverendX at 10:01 AM on October 10, 2002


FuckedCompany was the first place I looked for more info.

Pud rocks.
posted by geekyguy at 10:47 AM on October 10, 2002


Ok first off I am an ex-Aquila employee. I have worked with both Rick and Bob before, and I lost my job in June when the company sloughed off my entire division. It sucked. I'm over it. I still think the company sucks.

This guy did not deserve what he got based on his email -- he might have violated "corporate email policy", but the email itself was very well put and raised important issues. It's quite obvious, to me at least, that he was fired on a vindictive technicality.

I've even got a copy of the email right here
posted by LuxFX at 10:48 AM on October 10, 2002


Recockulous: if I owned a business and someone that I was paying a salary to used my email system to spread negative propagada about my company, to my employess, I wouldnt be able to think of a good reason for keeping him

From the article: Millan had responded to Green's request for the thoughts and concerns of employees.

If he was "spreading negative propaganda" on his own initiative, that'd be one thing, but this was a response to a message from management explicitly asking for feedback. It's a setup.

Also, it doesn't say how Green made the original request. It's possible--even likely--that the original request was an email. What if Millan hit Reply All instead of Reply? Is that enough to get fired over?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:52 AM on October 10, 2002


After reading the e-mail posted by LuxFX I have to say that he wrote a decent piece of mail. I had envisioned something written in a completely different context.

He made some good points about quite a few things too.
Executive bonus's
severance for resignation
Ethics in the workplace.

Forwarding it on in an e-mail to the rest of the employees obviously embarrassed a few of the uppity ups and it is fair to say that they in turn asked him not to come back in, as he stated clearly that he was also leaving the company.

For Green to then turn around and ask other people for their input is insulting. As if he is daring the to speak out.
posted by a3matrix at 11:12 AM on October 10, 2002


To those of you saying that "he had it coming" and that what he said and the way he said it is "not appropriate for the workplace": You Suck. You are Part Of The Problem.

The reason that things like this happen, that the lone voices get crushed, is precisely because they are lone voices. I've seen it happen again and again. I've been one of those lone voices. Companies feel safe firing or harshly reprimanding those who speak the truth because most people just keep their heads down and never say anything. I say, strap one on, and speak your mind.

You might see it as "negative propaganda", but there has to be something to counter-balance the glad-handed bullshit we get fed every day by our corporate masters. If you want to waste your life sucking Satan's cock every day so you can afford your cafe lattes and your tivo, go right ahead - but don't make it harder for those of us who don't feel the need to kiss ass every waking moment.

Just because someone has a CXO or VP or other management title doesn't give them some sort of holy right making them better than us workers. (You know, workers? The people who actually produce things?) They're just regular guys and gals, no better than the rest of us. They just sign your paychecks - if they won't deal with you as human beings, you can always find another paycheck. Yes, even in this economy. They don't own you - don't act like they do.

"They wanted to go for the brass ring and really live the good life," Braxton said. "What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
posted by majcher at 11:19 AM on October 10, 2002


Gee, majcher, thanks for that insightful comment, complete with blanket insults. I see from the resume on your site that you're not exactly busting with management experience. Try it some time, then come back here and let the rest of us know if you still hold your world view.
posted by mkultra at 12:07 PM on October 10, 2002


I've been one of those lone voices

The find a job where your worldview and your manners are considered cool.
You know, having a job is not necessarily some kind of evil Dilbertdom
posted by matteo at 12:14 PM on October 10, 2002


...his (or her) assistant safely out making copies of her (or his) butt or something.

Funniest. Comment. In. This. Thread.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:21 PM on October 10, 2002


Once in a while, somebody has to do it. Somebody has to take the lying bastards at their word and say, "You want the truth? Here it is." Okay, the guy had another job in the works. Good for him. Okay, spreading it all over the company was "inappropriate", maybe even "unprofessional". Call the courtesy police.

None of that changes the fact that Richard is a hypocritical bastard who doesn't have the balls to take a shot from someone on their way out the door. He could have simply responded to the email, layed out his reasons why the $7.6 million golden parachute was reasonable, and shut the hell up. In a month, everyone would have forgotten about it. Now even his yes men are giggling at him behind his back. He will never regain the respect of middle management, much less the rank and file. May as well retire now, asshole.
posted by norm29 at 12:32 PM on October 10, 2002


I see from the resume on your site that you're not exactly busting with management experience.
The find a job where your worldview and your manners are considered cool.

~laugh~

Congratulations. That was his point. The kind of "worldview" and "manners" needed to gain "management experience" are exactly what the manager in question had: cowardice, an inability to tolerate dissent, stupidity, and sycophancy.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:00 PM on October 10, 2002


i fully agree with what the guy did b/c that company is obviously a big sack of shit looking only to take care of a privelaged few. this kind of stuff happens all the time and is the reason for so much distrust in corporate america... they earned it. unfortunately when the chips fall, it's the little guys at the bottom that lose out while the big fish sneak off with all the money - all the while crying bankruptcy b/c they have to sell their yacht and beach house. 13 million in bonuses?!?! i'd quite that job as soon as i found out the "management" was pulling crap like that. sadly enough, most of the workers will just suck it up and keep on working there b/c they too are part of the problem by letting it happen.

mkultra - so then you agree that a 7.6 million dollar severence package for a guy who just quit his job is justified? it's exactly that kind of greedy philosophy that turns a good company into a mini-enron.
posted by ggggarret at 1:08 PM on October 10, 2002


Oh my goodness. He actually went about quoting back corporate values in the email. The fool!

First, corporate value statements apply only to the little people, and only when the organization finds it convenient to do so. Moreover, value statements are a list of defects, not attributes. The stuff that just comes naturally isn't particularly valued, until it goes away.
posted by chipr at 1:10 PM on October 10, 2002


are exactly what the manager in question had: cowardice, an inability to tolerate dissent, stupidity, and sycophancy.

stupidity? so everybody's stupid except you around here?

you mean that you tell your boss things like, "you're an asshole" and "you're not that good, and also you are overpaid"?
really?
posted by matteo at 1:29 PM on October 10, 2002


Related corporate greed link: Lou Dobbs on the Pitt-Biggs SEC fiasco.

Since our country's leadership won't stand up to corporate greed, and since some people here feel that employees shouldn't stand up to it either, is the solution for corporate American managers to police themselves? Is that wise?
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:37 PM on October 10, 2002


Having read the email, I think that it was pretty reasonable. I maybe would have copied everyone from my home computer, but whatever. These execs are clearly thinking only of lining their own already bulging pockets, and I'm glad to see them called out. Too bad major shareholders aren't kicking up the same kind of fit.

Mkultra -- it really doesn't take management experience to call a spade a spade. In fact, I'm beginning to think that it's a hindrance to common sense, honesty, and ethics. Nice to know, however, that management types haven't lost their disdain for non-management.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:02 PM on October 10, 2002


reverendX: You're missing the point.
posted by Witty at 2:18 PM on October 10, 2002


mkultra - so then you agree that a 7.6 million dollar severence package for a guy who just quit his job is justified? it's exactly that kind of greedy philosophy that turns a good company into a mini-enron.

No, I don't agree at all. But to extrapolate from that to majcher's diatribe against the inherent evils and stupidity of managers and the inherent goodness and wisdom of line workers is a huge leap.

Mkultra -- it really doesn't take management experience to call a spade a spade. In fact, I'm beginning to think that it's a hindrance to common sense, honesty, and ethics. Nice to know, however, that management types haven't lost their disdain for non-management.

Again, I'm not arguing that the email is unreasonable or that these people in question are scumbags. Nor do I have inherent disdain for non-management. What I do have disdain for is people who insist on using examples of extreme behavior (believe it or not folks, this kind of thing isn't rampant- there's a reason Aquila is failing) as a stumping platform for "See! It's all black and white!" It's completely myopic and just as bad as the behavior you're accusing managers of.

There are plenty of successful businesses and completely reasonable, level-headed managers. You just don't read about them because they don't make the news.
posted by mkultra at 2:27 PM on October 10, 2002


mkultra - I feel like you're reading a lot into my comment that isn't there.

Nowhere did I argue that managers are inherently stupid and evil, or that workers are inherently wise and good. I state quite clearly that the executives and managers "above" us in the corporate hierarchy are just plain folks like everyone else. I've had excellent managers, and I've known plenty of people on the "floor" who shouldn't have been let out of the house without a babysitter.

What I am saying is that keeping your nose buried in your work while the big scary kids run around and break stuff is bad, and that complaining when someone does speak up is worse. Let me be perfectly clear: If you care more about your paycheck than telling the truth when asked for it, you are somebody's bitch; a corporate whore. You are afraid to speak your mind because you'll get smacked down by your khaki-ass pimp daddy. If more people spoke their minds, and didn't let fear of management dictate their actions, the workplace would be a much more tolerable place to spend a third of your life.

And just for the record, I have had a taste of management experience. I've interviewed, hired, and managed people, built teams, lead projects, and all that. Most of that isn't on my resume for the same reason I don't highlight my sandwich-making skills - I have no desire to do that kind of work again. These days, I work as a technical contractor, making a good living doing "clean" work. Little to no company politics, just making stuff go, and zero smoke blown up anyone's ass.

Getting paid is nice. Being able to look at yourself in the mirror with a clean conscience is nicer.
posted by majcher at 2:54 PM on October 10, 2002


majcher is my hero.
posted by cvoid at 3:03 PM on October 10, 2002


If you care more about your paycheck than telling the truth when asked for it, you are somebody's bitch; a corporate whore.

Yeah, that's certainly the kind and humane thing to do when someone is stuck in a soul-deadening job for reasons you don't understand: heap personal abuse on them. And here I thought idealism died with Lennon.
posted by kindall at 5:34 PM on October 10, 2002


This thread reminded me of the roommate I once had who went around alienating people and pissing them off, yet prided herself on her bluntness. One can speak the truth tactfully.

Communications skills are always good...and for communications to be effective, then by definition the receiver has to have received the message that the sender intended to be sent. So, it is imperative for the sender to know the receiver sufficiently well enough to be able to couch the message in the terms that will make the receiver understand what the sender wanted to communicate. In other words, consider your audience and phrase appropriately.

I wouldn't talk to my boss the same way I'd talk to my grandmother. Nor would I talk to either of them the same way I'd talk with my closest friends.
posted by Vidiot at 9:47 AM on October 12, 2002


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