Fire Him? But He Just Had a Stroke!

By Chris Lott | Management | 8135 Views | 7 Comments    

I have experienced, first hand, employer decisions in regards to further employment with stroke victim employees… more specifically managers. What a moral dilemma it was for both sides. Employer… What if your manager had one? How would you handle their continued employment?


RELATED  6 Key Ingredients for Leadership. Do You Have the Right Stuff?


Stroke Victim – Deception from Employer

I entered a national retail sales career path as a young enthusiastic “manager trainee”. I worked long hours, won all national contests, and even challenged the CEO as to why I wasn’t, 6 months later, an assistant manager yet! I hadn’t understood politics like “don’t go over the regional managers head to get promoted” but that’s another future article. What’s the old saying… watch what you wish for and I would add… watch your back.

The regional manager pulled me in and discussed the conversation I had had with the CEO. He then told me I would get my wish if I would transfer to another site. The site was Walla Walla Washington. So… I left my young family and went to Walla Walla. What he had not told me is that the manager of this retail store site was out on disability. He had suffered a debilitating stroke and while he looked/acted normal… he would have seizures.

Arriving at my new career opportunity I was introduced to the team including the manager. It was obvious why the company was hoping he would “come back”. Great positive attitude, even under these trying times, dedicated to the “cause”, and his history of performance had been excellent. Unfortunately after the stroke he could no longer perform at that same level and the store was hemorrhaging money.

“For me, disability is a way of getting some extremity, some kind of very difficult situation, that throws an interesting light on people.” -Mark Haddon

So… I did what I always do… I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. To make a long story short… the store became the model store flying in managers from all over the nation to show what theirs should look like. It also had become very profitable. A great thing.

What I hadn’t realized is that the regional manager and my manager (stroke victim) were close friends. I had become the way for my manager to keep his job while recuperating. I did not receive any credit for the changes. I left. The manager didn’t fully recoup and later was let go. Did the company make a good decision? I’ll let you decide.

Stroke Victim – No Heart Employer

One of the most colorful general sales managers I had ever worked for had a massive stroke. While it didn’t kill him it left him paralyzed with no way to walk and talk. He later told me he had prepared to die but never to become disabled like this.

I took over his responsibilities and things went smoothly. Maybe too smooth as the owners decided after 6 months to let him go. I felt terrible. You see this guy had worked so hard to get back to work that he was actually making a great comeback. He walked weird and his speech was slurred but a remarkable comeback to be sure. Then… he got fired. Wow…

“Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.” -Martina Navratilova

The owners pulled me aside one day and wanted to know what I thought about their decision. I told them that I thought it was cold hearted. With that said… “I have moved on”. They then told me that they, before his stroke, had wanted to fire him. Upon learning about the stroke they were hoping he would get better, where he could actually get another job, and then let him go. My opinion changed instantly and I felt bad for what I had said earlier. End result… the general manager did indeed get better and was able to land a regional manager position that was better for home life and health.

I will also tell you that the ex-general manager had no warm thoughts for his ex-employers feeling that they left him out to dry. Is that how you want to be thought of as an employer? Could you live with your decision regardless?

Every country has their laws of what should and what shouldn’t happen with a disabled employee. I will leave that to the attorneys. What I am more interested in is the moral and ethical resolutions to this, not so unusual, circumstance. With baby boomers aging, national health issues exploding, disability employment questions will occurr more and more often. Are you, as an employer, prepared to handle this responsibility?

© 2006-2018 SalesBlog! | Photos courtesy of 123RF | Posted on


Chris Lott has this crazy creative side that motivates him to design websites and write articles. He's a disruptive technologist and is passionate about sales, family, and anything related to technology. See what others are saying about his work!.


7 thoughts on “Fire Him? But He Just Had a Stroke!

  1. I feel that if they are unable to do the job the company should not suffer due to one employee.

    The company hired him/her to do a job if they cannot perform that job anymore they leave the entire company at risk. It is selfish for any employee not to walk away from a job they will no longer be able to perform and it is irresponsible of the company to believe they will be able to perform at a reasonable level any time soon after a stroke.

  2. I had a TIA and lost everything I had worked for because even with a ‘mini’ stroke the recovery time is extensive. The damage to the brain, the trauma, caused siezures and emotional upheaval on top of the physical disability. The shock of this happening in my life caused a reassessment of priotities – as it should – putting more focus on physical health and less on business and career, which led to changes in my income as well as activities. And the change in my activities and focus caused a devaluation by both family and society. It was devastating and the aftershocks went on for years. People just didn’t understand the vastness of disability from a brain trauma – or the ability to recover. Years ago, the medical community would advise that although some recovery was possible the individual would never be truly whole. Now we know that with work, attention to nutritional needs and time a full recovery is possible. The brain CAN be totally rewired.

    With what we now know about recovery, it is fully and LOGICALLY feasible to give an extended leave for stroke sufferers, reinstating them, after an educated amount of time, to a position within the company. In recovery I GAINED skills I did not previously have and a sense of humor that will allow me to be more successful than I was before.

  3. This raises a number of questions, first what if I was the victim and second if it was my manager and third what if it is my company with an affected manager. This is one of the catch 22 situations that you can encounter as a manager and are required to take action about. There are is never going to be a win –win solution in this situation and emotions will run high, however, a manager needs to reach for a balance of needs for all stakeholders, emotionally and financially. Either way whoever makes the decision needs to have all the possible information available on the situation, then to confidently make a decision and stand by it.

  4. This article strikes WAY too close to home for me to be perfectly objective about this subject. Without divulging too much I spent t he better part of 7 years on my “comeback trail” from a similar situation but one that was argued about between physicians who just couldn’t seem to come up with an accurate diagnosis. At the outset, I was employed in the insurance business. The “Good Hands” people quickly became the “Good Finger” people. I was forced to retain an attorney just to keep my “independent contractor” agreement in place. It didn’t matter that, due to superior production, I’d won and attended many company conferences during my tenure. It is a “what have you done for me lately” world. My disability insurance denied my claim for “pre-existing” conditions, an impossibility due to the fact I’d had the coverage in force for over 8 years. Unum Provident, the largest and absolutely the worst disability insurance company in the industry (verifiable via the State Insurance Department complaint files) denied almost 400,000 similar claims that year alone and everything is still in Federal Court (never to emerge, I’m afraid). I wasn’t about to apply for the government dole that is SSI. In short, in 7 years of either un or under employment we were just about wiped out. It has been a very long road back to real productivity but I and many, many others like me might just as well be 25 years old again, starting over but without the luxury of time on our side. While I was incapacitated an employee of mine carried the ball and, by virtue of his production he kept us both from losing our contracts outright, but not for the want of trying on the part of the “Good Finger People”. The best part of that story was that he had just overcome a serious, life threatening, bout with cancer during which I wouldn’t ever have thought of terminating his contract and now he was able to save my bacon as it were. That was something very significant and soul-satisfying to my way of thinking. I will always owe him a great debt of gratitude.

    I’ll to be politically correct here, but it is virtually impossible for an older middle aged man, regardless of his education or experience, success or failures, to become employed without the “grace of God” accompanying him in his job search, irrespective of past health conditions. A recent and adverse health condition just adds to the difficulty. There are no government “preferences” dictated (nor should there be, but there certainly are for many others) to assist someone in that category in a job search. I am fortunate indeed to know individuals such as yourself and a very few others who would even “open the door” so to speak, in the area of employment, to someone who has faced challenges such as the one written about and give even the slightest benefit of the doubt as to continued abilities to contribute to the ongoing success of a business venture.

    Without saying more I firmly believe there is a very hot place in hell for managers who give the “Good Finger” at employees facing such challenges. There is, conversely, a place in whatever Heaven you might believe in on the right hand side of whatever God you worship for those who enable strong minded, determined and likely formerly very successful individuals to re-enter the workforce or stay in the workforce without adding the insult of being fired to the injury of a debilitating disease, accident or other condition or situation that life has thrown their way.

    Good article. It really hit a chord this time in case you didn’t notice.

  5. Read the great piece….. What I feel (not being judgmental here) – It is morally repugnant and ethically repulsive. But one thing must be remembered that in business there is no right or wrong… just the fact that you have to face the consequences. As a human being it is a whole lot personal and moral.

  6. When my father was going to have a triple bypass, his own supervisor went to visit him while he was in the hospital. My father’s boss told him he should retire. I can understand how management can treat people. When my mother had her heart surgery, some of my superiors were rather annoyed that I couldn’t stay longer for a project because I had to go take care of my mother. My sister and her husband spent most of the day to take care of her and I was between a rock and a hard place on this matter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *