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Meg Whitman on How to Reprimand Employees

06/18/2010 11:51 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Meg was a pretty good swimmer. But at meets, I had to be there, because if she wasn't at least first or second, she'd be screaming with rage." ~ Meg Whitman's Mother

This week, the New York Times uncovered an incident where Meg Whitman -- billionaire CEO and nominee for Governor of California -- lost her shit at the office and it cost the stockholders two hundred grand to make it go away.

The people who don't like her took a certain amount of pleasure in that, her godlike management skills being the only argument for her candidacy. (Since she's never held elected office, associated herself with any charitable or advocative movement or agency, spoken out on a single public policy, written an editorial on any subject, or voted.) Her anger issues got a little less funny towards the end of the week, when the website Gawker discovered that one of her sons likes to beat up women in bars.

To be fair to Griffith Rutherford Harsh V, the woman he hospitalized had insulted his fraternity.

I think, on the workplace violence thing at least, some people just don't understand hands-on management. According to the Times:

The employee, Young Mi Kim, was preparing Ms. Whitman for a news media interview that day... Ms. Kim later told at least one colleague that Ms. Whitman used an expletive and shoved her. According to one of the eBay employees knowledgeable about Ms. Whitman's version of the incident, Ms. Whitman said that she had physically guided Ms. Kim out of the conference room.

But it must have been some kind of serious physical guidance, because Whitman had to go into counseling with eBay's human resources department, mediation with its lawyers, and pay Kim $200,000.

Which sounds like a lot of money, but then, everything I know about business I learned from Robocop.

So I looked it up in The One Minute Manager and now I think I know what Meg did wrong. Here's what Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson, M.D. say:

The One Minute Reprimand works well when you:

1. Tell people beforehand that you are going to let them know how they are doing and in no uncertain terms.

Did Ms. Kim know Mrs. Whitman was going to shove her and scream curses at her beforehand? For instance, had they ever been to a swim meet?

the first half of the reprimand

2. Reprimand people immediately.

Did Mrs. Whitman attack Ms. Kim immediately, or close in and wait until her guard was down, like I do with the children?

3. Tell people what they did wrong - be specific.

How specific were the curses Mrs. Whitman shouted at Ms. Kim? "You fucking idiot" or "You fucking unorganized idiot?" See the difference?

4. Tell people how you feel about what they did wrong - and in no uncertain terms.

"I'm going to shove your face into that wall over there."

5. Stop for a few seconds of uncomfortable silence to let them feel how you feel.

Count to three. Seethe in, seethe out.

the second half of the reprimand

6. Shake hands, or touch them in a way that lets them know you are honestly on their side.

See, I think this is where the misunderstanding arose. Steps 1 through 5 of the reprimand completed, Mrs. Whitman was just trying to touch Ms. Kim in a way that let her know she was on her side. Or kill her. A distinction, I think you'll agree, of degree and not kind.

7. Remind them how much you value them.

That would be the $200,000.

Of course, I wasn't there. We'll never know what Ms. Kim did to make Meg Whitman attack her. She could have been asking for it.

Maybe she insulted her fraternity.

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