March 4, 2003
behavior seems harsh
A friend in Hawaii has announced his retirement at age
55 from his employer of 21 years. He is in sales and recently
told me that his boss put him on written warning for his
performance last year, even though he met his sales quota.
It was because he did not sell enough to one of the accounts
per sales plan. My friend is 55 and cannot really afford
to retire, but felt he was going to get forced out in
a youth movement and did not want his work
record to have on it the word fired!
I do not know all the facts; however, it does seem to
me that when an employee has 20-plus years with a firm,
having always been loyal to the organization, he deserves
more than routine consideration. The behavior of the boss
seems to lack integrity. It appears that this situation
smells of constructive or wrongful discharge. What do
Response: Companies have rights to manage their operations
in a variety of ways. They can legally, hire and fire
employees. Your friend is no exception. With reference
to the integrity issue, we may find answers by first breaking
down the concerns expressed in your letter.
Your friend announced his retirement, and for whatever
reasons he chose this language, it may be difficult to
undo this potentially legally binding announcement.
A written warning is serious matter and may be associated
with breaches of conduct that can outweigh other valuable
contributions. For an outsider to comment on such actions
by management might assume legal knowledge (even labor
precedents) that rest beyond the practice of addressing
integrity in leadership.
A career of 20 years, assuming competence, would certainly
warrant due process. Your friend should have been keeping
copies of every relevant document. If he has not done
so, he should make every effort to secure them. Given
the facts presented, it appears this person would be well
advised to follow a four-step process:
BRACHER is founder of the Bracher Center for Integrity
in Leadership in Monterey. His column, "Integrity
Matters," appears Wednesday on the Business page.
Readers are invited to submit questions on business-related
ethics and values. Please write in care of INTEGRITY to
firstname.lastname@example.org. The center's Web site is
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