There has been a lot of Internet discussion since the apparent public firing by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. If you haven’t heard about it, Armstrong was on a conference call discussing Patch.com, a business unit of AOL’s that provides local journalism in specific neighborhoods. In the sound byte that has followed Armstrong appears to ask Abel Lenz, Creative Director (formerly) of AOL to put the camera down and within seconds of Lenz not cooperating, Armstrong says, “you’re out Abel.” (Very umpire like)
If you’ve heard the sound clip it appears Armstrong is quite frustrated with the topic of business and Lenz was probably on his last nerve so in a fit of frustration and possibly forgetting where he was (in front of 1,000 employees on a conference call), Armstrong excused Lenz quickly. It has lit up business posts around the Internet for multiple reasons, the first being “did he really do it” and second, “in the court of public opinion, was it right?”
Armstrong seemed to not fall back on his sword on this one as we have heard no reason to believe it was either a stunt or a regrettable move.
The question is, was it right? Did Lenz deserve it? Was it justified? Should one get fired in such a public setting?
Many will not be surprised to hear I have no issues with this. Not because I think this is a necessarily humane way in which someone should lose their job but because as Creative Director and someone who sits high in the AOL organization, you are asked to behave in a certain way. If Armstrong as the CEO doesn’t like it then its time to make a change, make it fast. Receptionists, assistants, Junior Level employees, etc., they all deserve to be treated with kid gloves. They should be dismissed a certain way. By the time you make Director level title you put one more finger on the chopping block and when it’s your time, it’s your time no matter the circumstance.
I can promise you one thing, the next conference call that AOL has, the next meeting or even the next company function, everyone will be on their best behavior and nobody will step out of line. This can be damaging in the long term to a company if people feel they can’t behave a certain way, yet at the same time if Armstrong handles the PR responsibly that follows it will tighten the ship in a company that could use some new focus. Specifically for Patch.com.
In closing, don’t be sad for Lenz. The business outcry will be enough to make this guy a sad face for HR relations. He will land a job quickly, somewhere and will benefit nicely from it.