By now, most of the connected world knows the tale of the CEO whose stinging email came back to bite him in the share price. For those who don’t know, the hapless boss from US software firm Cerner Corp, sent fiery email to 400 company managers. The tone was so belligerent it inspired the shocked recipients to pass it on like chain letter. Soon thousands of readers including analysts and investors had read it.
The company’s stock plummeted 22 percent in three days.
The message, say business professors, is that bosses shouldn’t try and crack the whip on the troops over email. Never hold large-scale discussions over email, and never use email to discuss controversial ideas to more than handful of trusted people. Unless you want the whole world reading your thoughts. These are thoughts that the whole business world got to see:
“We are getting less than 40 hours of work from large number of our KC-based employees. The parking lot is sparsely used at 8am. Likewise at 5pm. As managers – you either do not know what your employees are doing; or you do not care. You have created expectations on the work effort which allowed this to happen inside Cerner, creating very unhealthy environment. In either case, you have problem and you will fix it or I will replace you.
“Never in my career have I allowed team which worked for me to think they had 40-hour job. I have allowed you to create culture which is permitting this. No longer.”
Six potential punishments followed – including laying off five percent of the staff in Kansas City. “Hell will freeze over,” before he would dole out more employee benefits. The car park would be his measure of success, and it should be “substantially full” at 7.30am and 6.30pm on weekdays and half full on Saturdays.
“You have two weeks. Tick Tock.”
Also commenting on the debacle, Wall Street analysts said the email made investors question if this was CEO they wanted to invest in – especially given the simplistic gauge of success – measuring worker productivity by the number of cars in the car park.
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