AOL Boss Apologises For Firing Worker In Public

In a man management move that Lord Alan Sugar would have been proud of, the CEO of AOL fired an employee during a company meeting.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong then issued an apology in a company memo for the way he publicly fired the worker, but said the worker had only himself to blame.

You’re Fired!

The HR faux pas was made during a company meeting on Friday 9 August, in a room full of staff, with thousands more listening via a conference call.

The unfortunate staffer who was so publicly fired is identified by Bloomberg as Abel Lenz (pictured), a creative director for AOL’s Patch local-news business. The company meeting was to discuss, somewhat ironically, cutbacks at Patch.com.

Patch.com was acquired by AOL in 2009, and is designed to deliver local news and online information to local communities.

Details of the public firing were revealed on the website of media blogger Jim Romenesko, which also offers an audio recording of the actual firing.

AOL’s Armstrong fired Lenz when he noticed him taking a picture during the meeting. Armstrong was in the process of telling Patch.com staff that if they were not invested in the venture, or were joking around, they should leave.

“If you think what’s going on right now is a joke, and you want to joke around about it, you should pick your stuff up and leave Patch today, and the reason is, and I’m going to be very specific about this, is Patch from an experience – Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!”

Armstrong paused for a few moments, and then continued as if nothing happened.

“If you guys think that AOL has not been committed to Patch, and won’t stay committed to Patch, you’re wrong. The company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, the board of directors is committed, I’m committed,” he went on to say.

I’m Sorry…Kinda

Armstrong has since apologised for his brash man management style in a memo to Patch.com workers.

“I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz,” Armstrong was quoted by Romenesko in the memo. “I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously.”

“We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel,” said Armstrong. “I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting.”

“As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL,” Armstrong reportedly said in the memo. “Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behaviour on Friday, which drove my actions.”

“We have been through many difficult situations in turning around AOL and I have done my best to make the best decisions in the long-term interest of the employees and the company,” he added. “On Friday I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me.”

Any out of work people like Abel Lenz could try searching TechweekEurope’s job listings website for alternative employment prospects.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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