Must a misfit be kept on the payroll?

Mechanic Grade II Tom Ketterman's work performance was rated satisfactory or better. This rating was more than could be said for his social performance. Ketterman was by far and away the most disliked man in the maintenance department.

03/01/1998


Mechanic Grade II Tom Ketterman's work performance was rated satisfactory or better. This rating was more than could be said for his social performance. Ketterman was by far and away the most disliked man in the maintenance department.

During his first 8 yr, his relations with co-workers, while not good, weren't so bad as to provoke more than occasional complaints. But in recent months, the situation went from marginally bad to worse. He got into repeated arguments with people in his own and other departments. More than once, the disputes deteriorated into physical altercations.

What concerned Maintenance Supervisor George Kalish most was that the mechanic's arguments and disputes were as likely as not to occur within earshot of visiting customers.

One day, Kalish paired another repairman, Al Bender, with Ketterman on a job assignment. Bender balked.

"I can't get along with that guy, and the feeling is mutual. I'd rather clock out than work with him."

"What's the problem?"

"As if you didn't know. To state the case kindly, he's hostile and uncooperative."

Kalish nodded. "Okay, Al, I'll assign someone else."

His second choice, Bill Shafter, didn't refuse outright to work with Ketterman, but winced when assigned, and griped half in jest, "Why do you hate me?"

Two days later, Kalish was interrupted at his desk by a disturbance on the floor. It was Ketterman in another shout-down with a co-worker. Nearby, two frowning customers observed the dispute.

That's it, Kalish decided. I've had it with this guy. He typed up a dismissal notice.

The mechanic was stunned. "My evaluations are consistently better than average. Maybe I'm a little hot-tempered, but that's no big deal. Besides, it's a company mandate to impose progressive discipline before firing someone. I've never even been suspended."

Question : How do you rate management's chances of making the dismissal stick?

Scott's verdict: "The termination stands," Plant Engineer Forest Scott ruled. "While progressive discipline is a key factor, along with effect on productivity, in a decision to fire an employee for social misbehavior, other factors are also important. One is the impact of the person's behavior on employee morale. Another is its effect on customer and public relations. While progressive discipline should have been applied, in this case I think we can get away without it."





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