Update on Being Fired for Using a Figure of Speech

June 1, 2007 · Posted in innovation, problem solving · 4 Comments 

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.

Zero Tolerance Policy Theatens Security of Power Grid

May 29, 2007 · Posted in innovation · 28 Comments 

Zero Tolerance Policy This Company is a Thought Free ZoneI feel, stunned, confused, sad and disappointed. Today I became another victim of Zero Tolerance Policies. I was fired from one of the power companies in Michigan today because of a Zero Tolerance Policy. What horrible evil did I do?

For the past year I’ve been contracting to the power company supporting the systems that keep all the power on across the state. I had to pass a background check, get drug tested, plus have a wide range of skills. Only five people in the whole company of 15,000 have the experience to do the job.

The company is really messed up but the people I work with are great. We complain a lot because many of the procedures in place actually have the opposite effect of what is intended. Paper work is insane and there are many things that just can’t get done because of the red tape. Three of the critical systems are constantly failing and we can’t do much to solve the problem because of procedures and policies.

A couple departments are particularly bad, Network Security being one of the worst. When I started working there my accounts and PC were messed up for over a week even though they had 3 weeks notice I was starting work.

The others in my department are actual employees and are very busy on this big conversion project. I’m building a new house and have not been able to sell the one I’m in and really need extra money so I’ve been taking 24 hour on call duty for the last 3 weeks.

Tuesday morning May 29, 2007 at 6 am the pager went off. The system that dispatchers use to send repair crews to fix downed power lines and leaking gas lines was not working. They could not send crews to emergencies like fires.

I jumped out of bed turned on the special laptop and tried to login to the secure network to fix the problem. I tried to login but kept getting an access denied message. As the time ticked by the pager went off again and again.

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