Should calling people “pompous old farts” cost you your job?

We live in a strange world these days where you can lose your job for writing something that hurts someone’s feelings but you can admit to years of defrauding the taxpayer and keep your job as a politician. Before political correctness, only a serious issue like fraud, theft or physical abuse would cost an upper management person their position. New Zealand CEO of Fletcher Mark Adamson lost his position for writing an internal email where he described one unit of Fletcher as being “full of pompous old farts.”

…He harshly criticised accounting firm Deloitte in the email and called for 100 staff to be culled from the troubled building and interiors unit… “The Board is incredibly disappointed by these comments about the business and our employees, which are clearly not consistent with Fletcher Building’s values,” Norris said. “Deloitte has worked with us for many years and we have always been impressed with the high quality work they have delivered.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t lose his job for a rude email, but that was a convenient excuse to get rid of someone that the board didn’t really like. Their work may very well be high quality but the building and interiors unit was described as being “troubled.” The CEO may have been wrong about where the trouble was coming from but he was acknowledging that something needed to be done about it even if people didn’t agree with or like how he said it. Why couldn’t this have been a disciplinary matter where he was forced to eat humble pie and censured in some way? Getting rid of him seems an over the top reaction. 

“Mark has expressed his deep regret to me personally and offered his sincere apologies to all Construction Division employees.” Fletcher issued the shock announcement today that Adamson would be leaving the company immediately.Full-year operating earnings guidance has been sliced from a top range of $760 million earlier this year to just $525m now and a $220m impairment hit is being taken on two big business units.That is a $415m change in Fletcher’s fortunes… ….While Adamson will receive his contractual entitlements, Fletcher Building said that all of his share options will lapse and he will forfeit all shares in its long term incentive scheme. -NZ Herald


Of course this isn’t the whole story, insiders are already squealing. You may be sure that Adamson wasn’t fired for just one email. At the end of the day, in corporates, when the company is failing, the buck stops at the top. I wonder when the Chairman of the Board might be held to account for his own failings.

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