The First Time I Got Shot At

A few years ago I got a call at 2 a.m. and was told by my plant manager in Greensborough that there was a dangerous oil spill at our plant. Hoping to avoid a major catastrophe with the EPA, I jumped into my car and drove to Greensborough. I made it there in record time, hoping to contain the spill by 6 a.m.

As we got ready to enter the plant, two hundred rounds were fired at us from two different uzis.

After speaking with the police later, a member of the railroad crew that our company used came over, pulled his shades down to his nose and looked me in the eyes and said, “If my fellow union railroad members had meant to hurt you, you would be hurt. So, get back in your fancy car and get your ass back to Atlanta.”

So, why did I get shot at – but not killed? Let’s see if you can learn a lesson from my situation and avoid your own problems in the future.

This happened because the CEO of the oil company that I was turning around wasn’t watching its demurrage charges from the railroad. They got their oil off-loaded from the cars but the railroad workers who were supposed to move the cars weren’t moving them, and the charges kept adding up. The oil company had financial controls in place to be notified if certain expenses were growing at an unreasonable rate – and that’s great – but when they got the notices they ignored them for 18 months.

When I go there I started asking questions about hundreds of thousands of dollars of fees; the railroad investigated and found that the three employees who were supposed to be moving these cars out after we emptied them were actually goofing off, playing tennis, fishing and so forth. One was fired and two were suspended.

They retaliated against the oil company by breaking an external oil valve and releasing thousands of gallons of oil, which was heading towards a nearby stream – hello, EPA! – and that brought me there in the middle of the night.

And then the shooting began.

The lesson learned goes back to being proactive and having proper financial controls, but what good are financial controls if you ignore them. Put your policies in place and follow them.

Have you ever experienced extreme employee retaliation?

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