Last week, during a tense meeting about layoffs at AOL’s Patch, CEO Tim Armstrong fired creative director Abel Lenz without missing a beat when Lenz dared try to take a photo: “Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!” Not only was the episode promptly leaked to various news outlets by those present, but audio of the encounter soon surfaced. Today came the mea culpa, although it doesn’t sound like Lenz is getting his job back.
“I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz,” Armstrong wrote of his “emotional response” in an e-mail to staff. “We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting.”
“As you know, I am a firm believer in open meetings, open Q&A, and this level of transparency requires trust across AOL,” added Armstrong. “Internal meetings of a confidential nature should not be filmed or recorded so that our employees can feel free to discuss all topics openly. Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.”
Still, the boss insisted, “I acted too quickly and I learned a tremendous lesson and I wanted you to hear that directly from me.”