"At work, hmmmm . . . . He always borrows money and then forgets to pay it back–you know, a dollar here, five dollars there–or he'll make some stupid or inappropriate comment. I just can't recall anything specific."
At this point Alex was not sure he wanted to correct Barton's behavior. Barton was still on probation, although legally that didn't much matter. State law permitted termination of an employee for no reason, as long as the employee couldn't prove discrimination. Barton was white, male, and under forty, so Alex was pretty much home free. However, as a matter of practice, the company usually applied its progressive discipline policy, except in probationary cases. Whatever Alex decided, he'd have to get Mattie involved. That was the worst of it.
While Alex was contemplating his alternatives, Bill Jones, the office administrator, asked to see him. "Alex, we've got an unusually high phone bill here. Quite a few calls seem to be coming from Barton's extension. Did you have him on a special assignment?"
"No, Bill, he's been writing features on local businesses. Where are these calls?"
"All over the country."
"All over the country? Like where?"
"New York, Florida, Illinois, Washington, Oregon . . . there's about one hundred dollars' worth of calls."
"Were these calls made after hours?"
"Nope, during company time."
"Do me a favor, Bill. Research a few of these calls and find out if they know our Barton Chambers."
"When do you need this?"
"ASAP!" Alex directed.
Bill reported back to Alex by the end of the week. He made ten random calls, three of which connected to the main switchboard of major newspapers, so there was no way of proving that Barton actually made the calls. The remaining seven calls were made to Barton's friends and relatives.
"That's my ticket!" Alex smiled, as he read the report. The next morning he showed up in Mattie's office.
* * * *
Alex pulled out his file. "Of course I have documentation, Mattie," he said as he slid the manila folder across her desk. She read the reports. "Okay, Alex, you've got a solid case. Let me take care of a few things with payroll. I'll be ready to handle this at 1:00 today. Arrange for your secretary to clean out his desk while he's in the exit interview with us. Let's keep this short and sweet–no longer than fifteen minutes," she instructed him.
Alex and Barton entered Mattie's office promptly at the appointed time. Mattie politely shook Barton's hand and wasted no time explaining the problem and presenting the evidence. She indicated that his office manners and behavior were unbusinesslike. She also pointed to the phone records and the report, informing him that personal use of company telephone for long-distance calls was unauthorized and constituted theft. Barton was to be terminated as of this date. His final paycheck was being processed and would be sent to his home.
As Mattie went through her spiel, she noticed that Barton's physical appearance began to alter. His cheeks flushed slightly, then turned to bright crimson. His eyes widened, narrowed, and then widened again, erupting into a fierce blaze. Before she had finished, he sprang out of his chair and started pacing. With a crazed expression overtaking his face, he began shouting furiously at the wall.
"Do these people realize what they have done to me? Firing me from a major metropolitan newspaper! What will that look like on my record? No one will ever hire me now. I'll be doomed to flipping hamburgers for the rest of my life. How could they do this to me? Well, I just won't accept it. I'll just stay until I can find another job."
"Barton," Mattie injected, "I'm afraid you don't have that option." She flashed a wink at Alex. "Please sit down so that we can finish up our business."
With an incredulous look, Barton turned up the velocity on his pace. "Sit down? I can't sit down. Who could sit down?" He pivoted in Alex's direction. "Alex, could you sit down if I were firing you?" Alex winced. Barton kept stomping behind Alex's chair, hurling his arms in every direction. Normally, Mattie might have been slightly frightened, but Alex's reactions distracted her fears. Barton's histrionics caused him to occasionally graze the back of Alex's chair. Mattie could see that Alex was growing increasingly uncomfortable with each bump. The first sign was an involuntary tic that Alex developed over his right eye. This tic graduated to a full-blown twitch when it traded places with his left cheek. Her thoughts gleefully applauded when she saw his twitches journey to his seat, setting Alex in motion as he danced the old ants-in-your-pants with metronomic precision, shifting from side to side in two-second intervals.
It was clear the whole situation had Alex totally unnerved. "Ah, there is a God," she chuckled to herself. "What a wonderful chance to let some of your hot air escape, jerk-off," she continued thinking as she watched Barton's tirade behind Alex's back become more and more incoherent.
Neither Mattie nor Alex attempted to interrupt Barton as he expressed his outrage. Eventually, Barton's battery wore down. Defeated and speechless, he flopped back in his chair and stared vacantly at Mattie. After a few blinks, Mattie broke the silence.
"Barton, Alex's secretary has gathered all of your belongings. She has them ready for you. Before you leave, however, you'll need to turn in your company ID, please."
As though under hypnosis, Barton reached into his back pocket and produced the ID.
"Thank you, Barton. Alex will escort you out now."
Alex shot a frightened glance to Mattie. Mattie nodded and signaled with her eyes that everything would be okay. Reluctantly, Alex rose from his seat and walked out of the office with Barton. When Alex could see Barton's silhouette disappear from view, he breathed an exhausted, weary sigh. He turned to the elevator and looked at his watch. This fifteen-minute termination interview had turned into an hour-long drama, one he never wanted to sit through again.
We thought this would be the end for the story… but Read Part 3: Less than 3 minutes more discover the shocking conclusion.
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©