Tech & Work

Charlie Sheen and other co-workers from Mars

Can non-violent quirks ever be a reason to fire an employee? And, if so, when?

For the past couple of weeks, much of the world has been transfixed by the Charlie Sheen play-by-play melt-down. From the outside, the whole deal seems like a tourist ride on the bizarro train. But, of course, his family and friends don't find his exploits quite as entertaining as the rest of the world seems to.

This all makes me wonder what the work environment at Two and a Half Men has been like for the crew. His behavior and unpredictability may not have been directed at his co-workers but at what point does it become an indirect liability?

My long-term readers will be familiar with the following story. Some years ago, I worked for a start-up that grew from about 15 employees to a hundred. At one point, the company was too small for a formal HR department, and a lot of the odd behavior of employees was attributed to quirkiness and ignored.

This all kind of changed one day when a co-worker (who was a good friend of mine) had to go see one of the technical writers about a question. I'll call the writer "Mr. X."

So my friend goes to Mr. X's office and knocks on his door. He hears, "Who is it?" When he says his name, Mr. X tells him to come in. When he opens the door, he sees Mr. X sitting there, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts. After seeing my friend's face, which looked like he'd been hit upside the head with a 2x4 (and, frankly, that would have been more welcome), Mr. X shrugged and said in explanation, "It's hot in here."

Now, if it had been me who opened that door and saw that sight, I would have run screaming from the building in search of the nearest place to take a Silkwood shower and get a partial lobotomy. For some inexplicable reason, this story stayed underground until Mr. X was actually let go eventually, but only due to downsizing.

So I wonder, was this just eccentric behavior or did it indicate the possibility of worse, more damaging behavior? I think a lot of people wonder about this — when is something so odd that you have to take action?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox