January 14, 2004

At 4pm yesterday afternoon, Melissa called me and said that her father, Ron, had just been fired.

I was stunned. As businessmen go, Ron is about as sharp as they come. He worked for Lennox Industries for the past 18 years, working in technical sales of Heating & Air unit to engineers and architects, and every year he was more productive than the previous one. He not only did his job, but he constantly went above & beyond, developing documentatiopn and tools for fellow employees. He developed incredibly technical, but easy-to-use spreadsheets to figure everything from sales figures to thermodynamic heating curves, which he freely sent out to anyone in the company he thought might benefit from it. A third of the documentation in his branch office was either written by Ron, or procured by him.

Ron had such a rapport with the engineers and architects that he worked with that when Lennox let him go in December of 1993 (for not taking a "suggested" relocation to Texas), nearly every client that he worked with told the company that they'd take their business elsewhere unless Ron was back. The Layoff was a ploy to get him to accept the Texas position, so Ron transferred out there and eventually found his way back to Atlanta in 1998. You won't find a more knowledgeable, helpful man in his field, and his superiors knew it. And one thing managers can't stand being corrected or proven wrong, even respectfully or in private. So when Ron was passed up for a promotion to management in favor of an MBA with no experience in Heating & Air, (a friend of the vacating manager by coincidence,) the situation was rife with tension. Ron would correct this manager as respectfully as he could, when the guy was making false claims and mis-stating facts, but never in front of customers.

Last year, this guy set out to fire Ron, to save face and keep with Lennox's unwritten corporate policy of letting employees go right before they can retire. He put Ron on probation for his "Attitude problems" when correcting management and for unspecified lack of performance. The man did his best to fabricate performance reviews, but he was eventually undone when every client that Ron worked said he was the best, most competent rep they'd ever worked with. He seemed to give up at this point. We all breathed a sigh of relief, but it was too soon. Performace reviews were scheduled this week. The manager sat Ron down yesterday and told him that he was being terminated for poor performance. No review, no reason, nothing to back it up. Then he simply got up and walked out, leaving Ron in the company of a Lennox Rep that would oversee the emptying of his office. The rep told him that he had 30 days to accept or deny a 3-month severance package (for 18 years of work). Brenda had to come and pick him up, since they wouldn't let him drive the company car home. The manager gave her a nice, big smirk as she came in to help him pack.

Of course we're worried about him finding more work, but I have long held that his skills could be more appreciated elsewhere, so I honestly believe that it's a good thing. Ron had long been documenting this manager's misguided crusade to get rid of him, and he's got evidence of this man lying in his performance reviews. He's going to contact a lawyer and see about his legal options for Wrongful Termination, and sue for his retirement package. It's a sad state of affairs when companies let their best, most knowledgeable employees go beacuse their managers are made to look bad in contrast.

He returned home last night with a carload of personal documents and publications, and we took him out to The Olive Garden. On the bright side, at least now he's not fighting me over getting the bill anymore!

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