The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

August 22, 2012

The Mis-Firing of Chad Johnson

By Steve Motenko

It’s disappearing from the Internet, but you might still be able to find the 4-minute HBO video of the the very public firing of football star Chad Johnson.

It’s a classic — in this case, a classic How Not to Fire an Employee.  This isn’t about whether Johnson should have been fired; it’s about how.

Johnson, wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, had a history of domestic abuse before he allegedly head-butted his wife of 41 days in a recent argument.  The Dolphins had had enough of his out-of-control behavior. Unfortunately for Chad, he was starring in an HBO reality series called Hard Knocks.  The HBO cameras followed him into the office of head coach Joe Philbin — who fired  him …

… and fired him in the most painful, disrespectful, tortuous way.  Whatever you may think of Chad Johnson – a guy who for a while changed his last name to Ochocinco (Spanish for 85) in order to match his uniform number – nobody deserves to be fired like Johnson got fired.  And the ironic thing is, he took it all with such grace.  It’s right there on video.

Now you might think, reading this, that Johnson’s boss screamed at him, upbraided him, purposefully humiliated him.  In fact, he did exactly the opposite.  Headcoach Philbin was namby-pamby and wishy-washy; he somehow thought it important to defend himself; he took for-painfully-ever to get to the point; and he let Johnson ramble on, drilling a deep hole of self-humiliation, before he stepped in to finish the torture.

If you can still find the video online, show it to your boss with a note: “If you ever have to fire me – or anyone else – for god’s sake don’t do it this way.”

Jim and I recorded a rather hilarious step-by-step critique of the audio recording of the firing.  It’ll be in our next podcast, to be released next Tuesday, August 28.  If you’re interested, you can subscribe to the podcast (then you won’t have to remember to download it) at



About the Author

Steve Motenko is an executive coach, leadership trainer, and co-host of The Boss Show, a weekly podcast on workplace dynamics. Steve and his Boss Show co-host, Jim Hessler, are co-authors of Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guide to Building Your Leadership Platform. Steve lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, with his wife and dog, whom he loves, and a cat he tolerates usually pretty well.

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