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PSE’s worst employee spared pink slip for training

(KIRO 7)

It seems nearly impossible to fire truly horrible employees. This is highlighted by a recent incident with Puget Sound Energy where an employee is saved with extra training. But you can’t train out this kind of stupid.

KIRO 7 reports Erica Conway, an African American woman, was sent a highly-offensive temporary password, which included the N-word. The password was random and the chances of it being selected is astronomically low. The chances of it being sent to a black woman and longtime volunteer of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP? You’d think it’d be impossible, but it happened.

PSE apologized and there was clearly no nefarious intent. But they’re mishandling the poor customer service Conway received. Per KIRO 7:

Conway told KIRO 7 she complained to a customer service agent at PSE’s Bothell call center. But that the agent didn’t take the slur seriously.

“I had said, ‘Do you guys screen out certain words?’ and Lydia was like, ‘Yes we do.’ And I said, ‘Well you guys didn’t screen out this word.’ And she said, ‘Why would we?’ And I said, “What do you mean why would we? This is an offensive word.’

Then, speaking to KING 5, Conway says she told Lydia:

‘We’re in 2018. You mean to tell me you’ve never heard this word before?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, in the movies by African Americans.’ And I said I think we need to stop this conversation.’

Instead of firing this employee, she will be offered “training,” according to KING 5.

Training? In what world is her response appropriate? All races use the F-word too, yet we know it’d be inappropriate to use as a password.

Assuming Conway’s recollection is accurate, there’s no reason to believe any kind of training will help this employee. You can only teach so much and you can’t train basic common sense. That comes with life experience and, apparently, this woman has little. Firing her, ultimately, would be a better move because then she’ll actually learn something.

Mistakes clearly happen and training can be effective in certain situations. But this error seems so egregious that it’s baffling to think PSE customers are served by keeping such an employee on the payroll. Why does it seem like it’s nearly impossible to fire such poor employees? PSE is showing compassion and a willingness to better their employees? Gee, congratulations PSE, you’re coddling an imbecile.

Yes, I acknowledge I’m judging this employee based solely on this incident and I don’t know about her past performance. I suppose it’s possible the day prior, she found a way to save PSE millions in lost revenue and saved a choking baby in the cafeteria, and she personally escorted a family of ducks as they crossed a busy four-lane street. But something tells me she’s the exact kind of employee I suspect her to be based on her mind-numbingly stupid interaction with Conway. And while I generally don’t wish ill on people or their careers, sometimes it takes a firing for them to truly understand that they need to do better.

And Lydia, with respect, you need to do better.

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