BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Friday, 6 April, 2001, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Boss's e-mail bites back
Worker at a computer
E-mail can be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands
A chief executive who used an e-mail to threaten his staff with the sack for being lazy has seen his company's share price collapse after the message appeared on the internet.

You have a problem. Either you will fix it or I will replace you

Neal Patterson

Neal Patterson, head of the Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, USA, had no idea his private directive to staff would end up being seen by millions of people on the world wide web.

In the three days after the publication of the message, shares in the healthcare software development company plummeted 22% on the stock market.

Empty car park

In the message, originally sent to some 400 managers at the company's headquarters, he complained managers were not working hard enough.

He was particularly angry the staff car park at the company was virtually empty at 0800, suggesting his employees did not like early mornings.

You have two weeks. Tick, tock

Neal Patterson

"We are getting less than 40 hours of work from a large number of our KC-based EMPLOYEES. The parking lot is sparsely used at 8am; likewise at 5pm," his message said.

Great expectations

"As managers, you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing or you do not CARE. You have created expectations on the work effort which allowed this to happen inside Cerner, creating a very unhealthy environment. In either case, you have a problem and you will fix it or I will replace you.

"NEVER in my career have I allowed a team which worked for me to think they had a 40-hour job. I have allowed YOU to create a culture which is permitting this. NO LONGER."

He added that "hell would freeze over" before he increased employee benefits. He wanted to see the car park nearly full by 0730 and half-full at weekends.

"You have two weeks. Tick, tock," he said.

Anonymous messenger

Somebody posted his mail sent on 13 March on the Yahoo website eight days later.

Investors who saw it there wondered what was going on at the company, which employs 3,100 employees worldwide.

Mr Patterson attributed his blunt management style to his upbringing in the countryside - adding that one could take the boy off the farm, but one could not take the farm out of the boy.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

23 Mar 01 | Business
Murder e-mail no laughing matter
19 Mar 01 | Americas
Bush ditches e-mail
06 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
When sending is spying
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories