“I used to work at a small software company in the early 90s that was bought by a bigger company. We were about 20 people and merged with a company of 130, so we moved into their downtown office from our little suburban hole in the wall at an industrial park. At our little company, we were pretty casual about everything, and the company we merged with thought they were still in the 80s from an office culture perspective. This meant no business casual, clock in and out, timesheets, memos, the whole nine yards. It was quite a culture shift, but we adjusted well enough.
But this one guy, who I will call ‘Morton,’ was an oddball at the best of times. He was very abrasive, but he did know what he was doing, so for the most part we just left him to his own devices in a corner and gave him tasks to write code, and it worked well enough. One of his many quirks was he didn’t spend a lot of time at his apartment, and when we were at the industrial park, he had all his mail delivered to the office. At the time nobody cared, but when we moved in with the new parent company downtown, all the mail went through reception and he was told to stop doing that. He did for the most part but forgot to inform a couple of places about the change in address again after he was told to stop getting mail at the office.
One day, a letter from the tax office arrives for him personally, and one of our receptionists accidentally opened the letter since the envelope it came in was identical to the envelope the company gets literally thousands of other pieces of mail from the government offices every year, so total honest mistake. The receptionist took it downstairs to Morton – who sits just over from me – and reiterated the policy about no personal mail to the office. Then, she explained she opened his mail by mistake and handed it to him. Morton lost his mind. He figured she did it on purpose to ‘teach him a lesson’ and just went off on a minutes-long screaming rant. Eventually, our boss came over and calmed him down, but the receptionist was now extremely upset. She went to HR and a couple of hours later, there was a meeting set to discuss ‘The Incident.’
Morton, his boss, the receptionist, and the HR person all went into the meeting room and were in there for about 20 minutes. Everything looked cordial and nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly the door opened and the head of HR directed Morton to leave the office immediately and announced he was no longer employed by us. Morton, looking all mad, grabbed his jacket and stalked out, never to be seen by us again.
A few minutes later, we talked to the receptionist and found out the meeting was going well, Morton was being given a written warning for continuing to break the policy on mail at work and just given a talking to, not a warning, over the shouting fit he had. Seemed reasonable enough.
At the end of the meeting, everyone shook hands, and then for who knows what reason, Morton (who at this point I should probably mention is 6′ 4″ tall) leaned over the tiny receptionist during the handshake and said, ‘You’d better not walk out to your car alone tonight.’
Insta-FIRED. And to this day we have no idea what the heck possessed him to do that. Maybe he was trying to make a stupid joke and his failure to read the room was profound, maybe he was serious. Whatever he was toast.
And we took turns walking the receptionist out to her car in small groups for a month, just in case.
Never heard from him again.”