Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Axe

In this post, I am the lucky one. Even maybe the villain.

We fired someone. I am not the only one who thought it necessary, but I have thought it necessary for the longest time. I am the one who made the machinery work toward that end.

This year, Zombie Boss was more and more absent, less and less responsive to owners and contractors and staff and the Board.  ZB would call meetings and fail to show up for them, make deals or promises and not finish them out, pass the blame or the buck or the duty. He relinquished oversight, and staff ran amok with it.

We had a lawsuit that cost us over $100K when one of the owners couldn't get an answer about a grievance.  The Board handled it. We nearly didn't pay utility bills in spring and we have a cash crunch right before Christmas, which means that payroll and utilities are going to be a bit of a stretch. In winter, no heat? No paychecks? No, it's not quite that bad. We can make it. But I don't think we should wait until we can't.

In early November, we sought a legal opinion how to get out of the contract. Because the Board That Was stupidly did not get their manager contract drawn up by a legal representative, and we were stuck. Somebody cobbled it together from parts of an old contract, a raft of high-minded aspirations, and by the seat of their pants. Note: Do not do this, ever. It did not save us any money on legal fees.

The legal opinion was that we had to write an official memorandum detailing the reasons we could "terminate with cause". I wrote it; it took me a solid week. I tied our grievances to specific documents and went through them point by point. It was ten pages long, and could have easily been twenty. The back-up material was twenty pages long and could have been a hundred without much additional effort. The lawyer looked it over and said it was great. So we could do it.

Special Session of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
No sooner had the Board voted on it and learned the legal (and most protective to Owner privacy) procedure to accomplishing it, we lost another employee because of criminal acts.  I mean literally--fifteen minutes after our meeting adjourned. The entire Condo was rocked, and the Board put off the action until we could figure out what to do with new actions in front of us. We got a legal opinion on that too--I said you can't wait until it's convenient for us (e.g., I'll fire her after my vacation), you have to do it at the point of grievance.

I was ready to go. But legal said no, we were in our rights to wait.

A Final Chance
But Zombie Boss hasn't handled this crisis either. Ann T. has been doing it. Writing the incident reports, collecting them. Checking the bad guy's personnel file, cutting off his access to ordering materials and billing us, setting up procedures, damage control. I don't mean I've been alone--the rest of the Board has also been doing stuff--writing the announcements, checking the building systems, interfacing on anything I don't know. But they have day jobs. It's been scary and hard. And even in this Zombie Boss hasn't pulled things together.

So, as one Board member said, who was unhappy, we let him go "right before Christmas". We've been telling him in increasing conversations that his performance is not good and that repercussions were imminent. I gave him a list of expectations this spring; I wrote him up this summer. He's been having correction conversations multiple times a week for years now. And the entire chain of command is twisted and broken. Everyone on the Board has been working hours and hours for months and months, in areas depending on their expertise. For free. Taking off work to visit lawyers or meet with contractors. Stuff like that. And that twists chain of command too.

He had a final chance to get it right, the reprieve of over a month. He didn't meet the challenge. In the last month, working with him multiple times a week, I could see that everything he did was a liability to us all.

He's gone. We were nice about it. He was. We all shook hands. He drove away.
Still not a good outcome. The axe is always a loss to all parties. And the timing just sucks.

Zombie Boss has a million things to figure out now. We do too. This stuff goes on long after the axe has swung. I wish him luck. I'd do it all again if I had to. We were in big trouble. We still are.


Bob G. said...

That was a real "WOW" time you all had there.

But finally, you KNOW there is an end to that long dark tunnel...and you are accomplishing what is required to get a light back INTO that tunnel.

Now you have all the "damage control" to take care of, and at least there won't be more "piling on" of more issues and problems on an already large heap.

Would it be that more in our GOVERNMENT had as much CONCERN and ethics as YOU have...we'd ALL be a lot better off, as would our nation.

Commendable...VERY commendable.

Carry on.
And do have a great weekend.

The Bug said...

What a mess! We have all known for a long time that it was going to come to this. I'm glad it's over. I guess the next step is hiring a replacement?

Momma Fargo said...

Wow! Well, it sounds like he didn't do his job and needed to step up and didn't. Bad timing, but his own doing. Maybe you should be the boss?

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
Well, WOW, thank you! I hope I can do that well.

You are right though--I think many problems will stop proliferating and then we can get caught up!

I will say condo board work has made me understand legislature a little more. It is hard to get a full agreement any day of the week.

Thanks for the encouragement!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Bug,
Oh, it is a mess! And yes, I hope we get a replacement. Instead of the Board doing this by the seat of our pants, we have a consultant to help us with hiring now. We have done so poorly two times in a row, it seems like we need somebody who can help us find a person with real accreditation and backbone.

Thanks for writing in! Yeah, I was hoping it would come to this, for sure!

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Momma Fargo,
This is a good-paying job and oh, yes, I would love to have it.

Unfortunately, if you Own here, you can't Work here.

I keep thinking some similar opportunity will open up. However, in the meantime, here goes nothing!!

thanks for the kudos,
Ann T.