Update on Being Fired for Using a Figure of Speech

June 1, 2007 · Posted in innovation, problem solving 

Since Tuesday when I was fired for using a figure of speech my story has been read over 3000 times and I have an interview on a nationally syndicated radio program, Steel on Steel. Ill tell you how to listen to it and post an MP3 on my site when I have one.

I originally didn’t name the company thinking it might harm my relationships with other clients. But I’ve thought about what is really going on at Consumers Energy and believe that the entire story needs to be exposed in order to fix the problem.

Back when the Enron fraud happened Consumers Energy also faced criminal charges for doing similar types of things. To avoid serious legal problems they put in Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) control everywhere. How does this connect to Zero Tolerance Policies?

Instead of holding people accountable for their actions Sarbanes Oxley requires companies to document every last detail of everything. If the company has these so called controls then they can claim they did everything to prevent fraud like happened at Enron.

What this really did was drown everyone in useless paperwork and give a pass to management for any illegal activities.

The Zero Tolerance Policies act the same way. Instead of dealing with real issues in a productive way to find and resolve problems they just follow procedure. Everything even remotely related to violence is treated like actual violence. No one thinks at all.

So the people that are actually trying to get work worry about accidentally breaking some rule and losing their job. And every employee is told to report anything and everything no matter how ridiculous. And management doesn’t filter anything. The whole system is guilt by accusation, no trial, instant death penalty (fired on the spot).

But of course real offenses like purchasing software that continual fails leaving thousands of people without power and potentially in danger of gas leaks and downed power lines is ignored. Why did they buy it? Was it the best program they reviewed? No. Other companies were using it so they bought the “safe choice”.

This endangers people’s lives, livelihood and shareholders (think 401K) value.

What is the solution?

Personal responsibility is the solution. Even if the crazy policies are in place you don’t have to turn your brain off. First, don’t report every little thing. Use some common sense. Regarding fears of violence follow these ideas, and also read “How to Stop Suicide Bombers and other Criminals”

  • Make sure you understand what the person said. You might have misheard something or they might not have meant it the way they said it.
  • Be human. If someone is angry or upset, offer to help.
  • Look at actions. Is the person actually doing anything to commit a crime? If you are the person investigating claims check.
  • Don’t work at companies with these stupid policies. If you are more afraid of losing your job than doing the right thing you can be forced to do horrible things claiming “I was only following orders.”

For companies, make these changes to the policies. It’s OK to have a Zero Tolerance for REAL VIOLENCE. Make sure there is real violence, not just feelings or supposed threats.

  • Verify a suspected threat is real. Could the language be misinterpreted? Ask the person what they meant.
  • DO NOT fire anyone over fears. Almost all acts of real violence occur after a person is fired from a job. If a person is feeling stress the added stress and loss of control by being fired can push them over the edge. It also cuts off any communication you have with the person.
  • Solve the problem that is upsetting the person. Violence is the result of no other option. Make sure people can get their problems fixed.
  • Offer counseling. Make sure its not used as a punishment. Forced “anger management” will cause resentment and also prevent people from volunteering for help.
  • Talk to people. Treat people like people. Get rid of “human resources” People are not resources to be manipulated and sold. People have feelings, desires and value as individuals. Have real relationships. Develop trust.


Real responsibility starts and ends with individuals. You have the power, use it. Use it wisely.