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When an employee’s anger goes viral

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

On his last day on the job after 35 years, Michael Stuban decided to vent. He emailed 2,000 of his peers—employees at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission—with a scathing indictment of his employer.

Stuban, 58, lambasted his bosses as “out of touch with the average employees” and “only looking out for themselves.” He also scolded them for not seeking input from employees “until after decisions are made.”

Actually, Stuban simply sent around his exit interview comments that the human-resources department had requested. He figured that hitting the “reply all” button would make a greater organizationwide impact.

He was right.

Sean Logan did not handle it well. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s chairman, Logan could have responded privately to Stuban. Instead, he responded in kind to his disgruntled outgoing staffer.

“Mr. Stuban … I don’t believe we ever met, and after reading your Exit Questionnaire, I am grateful that we didn’t,” Logan wrote. By now, all 2,000 employees were involved in a feud between a former peer and their leader.

Logan didn’t mince words. He wrote with a splash of sarcasm that the commission “couldn’t be to [sic] bad of a place considering you stayed for 35 years. Best of luck in your retirement.”

Stuban, who learned about Logan’s reply from his former co-workers, responded sensibly.

“He did miss the point,” Stuban said. “If it was an effective company and someone told you there are problems and no morale, you don’t have to believe me, but maybe someone should check into it.”

Clearly, Logan wasn’t happy with Stuban’s decision to air his grievances so openly. Nevertheless, he made matters worse by writing a snide email to the entire workforce in which he personally attacked Stuban. That set up a guaranteed no-win situation.

— Adapted from “He was minutes from retirement. But first, he blasted his bosses in a company-wide email,” Peter Holley, www.washingtonpost.com.

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