What do you think: Is a company-wide conference call, with more than 1,000 people attending, the right place to fire somebody?

Um, maybe not. Yet that’s just what the CEO of AOL did recently on a tense call with employees of the company’s troubled news service unit, called Patch.

When Patch’s creative director started videotaping the headquarters end of the call, the CEO burst out: “Put that camera down right now! You’re fired! Out!”

The CEO apologized later, to the entire staff and separately to the employee, but didn’t rehire him.

Think that employee might still be mad, and sue? We shall see.

Heat of the moment
It’s seldom a good idea to discipline someone in the heat of the moment. When managers are angry or flustered at an employee’s bad behavior, they’re more likely to make a call they’ll regret later.

There may be exceptions — if an employee has committed or is threatening violence, for example — but in the main it’s best to hold off on discipline until everyone has cooled down.

Then the manager — and HR — can weigh the matter calmly, and apply organizational guidelines. And HR needs to do its darndest to make sure EVERY manager, whether at the top or the bottom of the org-chart, knows and respects those guidelines.

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