AP NEWS

Scott Reeder: Where do workers who exit dramatically go?

March 28, 2019

SPRINGFIELD — Sometimes I find myself wondering about the employees who went away.

Oh, I’m not talking about folks who were laid off for economic reasons or were just told after a few months on the job they weren’t a “good fit.”

No, I’m talking about the spectacular flameouts.

We’re talking about the workers who inspired Johnny Paycheck’s ballad: “Take This Job and Shove It.”

Just before I joined the Las Vegas Sun, a reporter quit by doing just that. He slammed his pager onto his editor’s desk, told him to put it on vibrate and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. He ended up unemployed for quite a while, but has endured as a newsroom legend.

And then, there was that one employee who, many years ago, wanted me to hire him for a job covering the Illinois statehouse.

He interviewed well and had a nice portfolio of work. But then I learned that after he left his previous employment, he created a webpage personally attacking editors and others in the newsroom where he worked.

He didn’t get the job.

I ponder the fate of these folks nonetheless.

After all, who hasn’t, at some weak moment, wanted to tell off their boss with a few expletives attached? But most of us don’t. It’s not polite and not a particularly good career move either.

That said, I can’t help but think about the first employee I knew who practiced radical candor to The Man.

It was in 1989 when I was cub reporter at the Galveston Daily News. There was a dispute about which reporter would work a weekend shift. A senior editor weighed in and the person who drew the short straw typed up a memo referring to him as a “eunuch” and stuck it in the mailbox of her direct supervisor.

Unfortunately, the senior editor went to put a note of his own into the mailbox and read what was written about him. Given that the offended editor was duller than dishwater, it remains unknown whether he had to look up the definition of “eunuch” before deciding to be offended.

Nonetheless, that reporter, too, found herself out of work.

But can a career survive, even thrive, after such a misstep? Her occupational fate had remained unknown to me for three decades — until last Saturday when I received a message from Amazon recommending a best-selling author.

The author is my former co-worker.

As I scanned the list of her published works, I couldn’t help but ponder: “Has she found a way to work the word “eunuch” into a plotline?”