An AOL boss fired an employee during a conference call in front of 1,000 employees recently. The reason? The employee was attempting to take a photo of said boss with his phone during the meeting. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong was holding a meeting about Patch, AOL's hyperlocal news sites, when he caught Patch Creative Director Abel Lenz trying to take a surreptitious photo of him. "Abel -- put that camera down right now. Abel! You're fired. Out!" Armstrong can be heard saying via audio on media blog JimRomensko.com.
I can't claim to know anything about the type of boss Armstrong is, or the type of employee Lenz was (or how either is as people), but I can see how taking a photo of your boss mid-meeting would be frowned upon.
It's highly unlikely that Lenz was taking a photo of his boss for his personal collection or for reasons that had anything to do with business. Odds are, it was going to be posted on some social media platform (possibly along with information from the meeting). And I'm guessing that pissed Armstrong off -- in addition to the fact that his employee wasn't paying attention during a meeting. If I were him, I'd be pissed, too. Not sure I'd fire someone on the spot like that, and in such a manner, but I can't imagine that kind of behavior would be welcomed by any boss.
Fact is, many people have become more obsessed with their phones and their social media images than with their actual lives. Sure, people have been zoning out and not paying attention at work since the beginning of time. But it at least was done privately. As in, no one else really knew but the person doing the zoning out. Now, thanks to smartphones, not only do people pay twice as less attention, they're doing so is a bit of a "f*ck you" to their boss. I'm certainly not saying I've never checked my phone in the middle of a meeting, but I'll be the first to admit, it's rude and it totally takes me out of what I'm supposed to be doing (read: paying attention). Maybe a new rule should be "no phones allowed in meetings"?
Who knows what will happen with Abel Lenz. From the audio, it sounds like Armstrong's decision was a flippant one, and one he may go back on. And then again, there's always the possibility that this was all one big marketing ploy for Patch. If so, well-played.
What do you think of people checking their phones while in meetings?
Image via Karla Fitch/Flickr