Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A tale of two transgressions, or; How Jim Tressel learned to start lying and lose his job

Employers forgive lots of employee transgressions. I routinely counsel clients that the decision between whether to discipline or terminate an employee often comes down to how valuable the employee is to the organization. The more talented an employee, the more likely an employer will be to forgive even a serious misstep (at least the first time). One sin, above all others, however, should rarely be overlooked—dishonesty.

Consider the following two examples.

On Sunday night I watched a rerun of Undercover Boss. The episode focused on the Chief Development Officer of Subway, a recovering alcoholic who, decades earlier, passed out at work in an alcohol-induced stupor. Instead of firing him, the company gave him a second chance. In the years since, he rose to become one of the company’s key executives.

Compare that story to the weekend’s big news story in Ohio—Jim Tressel’s resignation. He did not leave Ohio State in a cloud of disgrace because his players traded memorabilia for tattoos. Instead, his lies caused his downfall. Trust is the core of any relationship—including that between a boss and employee. Once that trust is eroded, the relationship is unsalvageable. All of the good Tressel did for Ohio State disappeared when he lied to his boss about what he knew and when he knew it.

I'll leave you, my readers, with a question. Can you think of any situation in which you’ve forgiven an employee you caught in a lie? I’d love to hear your thoughts, either via the comments below, my twitter, or my Facebook Page.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.