Leaked Applebee’s Email Reveals How Managers View Employees

Several years back, I had a comment on one of my articles that I will never forget.

The reader said, “Being an employee of several different companies, I can honestly say that I’ve felt like nothing more than a line item on a spreadsheet somewhere that an accountant is desperately trying to eliminate.”

I’ve thought about those words a lot over the years, and I wish they weren’t true.

Sadly, in more than thirty years in leadership, I have seen countless managers who see employees this way – a cost that needs to be eliminated.

In the past week, one of those managers made headlines.

You might have seen the news. An email from Wayne Pankratz, executive director of operations for Applebee’s restaurant, was leaked onto Reddit.

In the email, Pankratz encourages franchise managers to use the current economic challenges of inflation and high gas costs as an opportunity to lower overall employee wages.

He argues that, as prices rise and government stimulus money wanes, people relying on unemployment funds will look for work. He says this will create an advantageous labor market for the restaurant chain allowing it to hire employees at a lower cost.

He sees the current economic crisis as an opportunity to reduce Applebee’s personnel expenses and increase profits.

Pankratz has the same view as many short-sighted managers – they see employees as a cost and not an asset.

Short-sighted managers see employees as a cost and not an asset. Click To Tweet

By seeing people only as a costly expense, these managers think the quickest way to make more profit is by reducing people or salaries.

They look at employees as an expense or a problem that must be reduced or eliminated.

Great leaders see things differently. They consider employees as an asset.

In accounting terms, assets are company resources that have future economic value.

Instead of seeing employees as a problem, great leaders see them as a valuable resource. They know that people can grow sales, satisfy customers, improve processes, and innovate products. They can also do countless other things that add money to the top and bottom line.

As a CEO, I see daily examples of this in my business.

If you think of employees as an asset, you treat them differently. Click To Tweet

If you think of employees as an asset, as I do, you treat them differently. You understand the importance of keeping them happy and operating at peak performance. You recognize the importance of leadership.

You realize your team will be at their best when they are loved, appreciated, respected, engaged, and acknowledged.

It seems simple to me, but it’s not often practiced.

Where do you stand? Do you see employees as an expense, like Pankratz, or an asset?

If you see employees as an asset, you know the importance of leadership.

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[Photo by Taylor Davidson on Unsplash]

The Toxic Leadership of Urban Meyer

At just 13 games, Urban Meyer had one of the shortest tenures of an NFL head coach, and even that was too long.

The Jacksonville Jaguars fired first-year coach Urban Meyer this past week after just 13 games.

Under Meyer’s leadership, the Jaguars generated the worst offense in NFL and produced a dismal 2-11 record. If the mission of an NFL team is to win games, Myer’s failed miserably.

But even more incredible are the stories of poor leadership he demonstrated in his short career as an NFL head coach. Meyer appeared to be a narcissistic boss who created a toxic work environment.

Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville was filled with losing and controversies, but the Jaguars should have known he would be a problem.

As a college coach at Ohio State, he built a reputation of having a volatile temper, a need for complete control, and a limitless urge to blame those around him for his failings. He was even suspended at one point for poor judgment.

If the Jaguars missed all this, they must have known things were going bad early on.

Meyer’s temper and need for complete control created chaos early in the preseason. He failed to listen to key staff members with extensive NFL experience and insisted on doing things his way. The morale suffered, and his outbursts and fiery remarks to players and coaches created discord and disorder on the team.

“He has everyone looking over their shoulders already,” said one staff member early in Meyer’s tenure. “He becomes unhinged way too easily, and he doesn’t know how to handle losing, even in the preseason. He loses it and wants to take over the drills himself. It’s not good.”

Meyer even threatened to fire staff members after losses in the preseason.

One employee said, “You can’t freak out about preseason games and belittle your coaches on a staff you handpicked every time things don’t go your way. It’s not going to work here.”

And then there was the incident in Columbus.

After the Jaguars’ September loss in Cincinnati, Meyer didn’t travel back to Jacksonville with the team. He didn’t spend time on the plane with his staff and players to review the loss and develop plans to get better. Instead, he went straight to Columbus, where he was recorded in a viral video getting a lap dance from a woman who was not his wife at a bar.

Still, the Jaguars kept him as their coach. Maybe they thought he was just having a bad few months.

But, the problems continued. In early December, it was reported that Meyer had an unusual meeting with his coaches and assistants. According to the report, Myer delivered a biting message where he told his people that he was a “winner” and his assistant coaches were “losers.” He went around the room individually, asking each staff member to compare their “pathetic resumes” to his.

You would think that would have been enough to fire him but the final straw was the revelation Meyer had kicked one of his players, Josh Lambo, during pregame warmups.

Apparently, emotional attacks weren’t enough for Meyer.

In an interview, Lambo said, “I’m in a lunge position – left leg forward, right leg back. And while I’m in that stretch position, Meyer comes up to me and says, ‘Hey Dips–t, make your f–king kicks!’ And kicks me in the leg.”

Lambo confronted the coach, and Meyer said, “I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f–k I want.”

Hours after this incident was made public, the Jacksonville Jaguars had finally had enough. They fired Urban Meyer. They ended his catastrophic and toxic tenure with the team.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I like to say that leadership matters.

The Jaguars thought they could hire a winning college coach to help them turn their team around. Instead, they brought in a toxic leader that destroyed the culture.

U.S. Navy SEAL and leadership author Jocko Willink likes to say, “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”

In Extreme Ownership, he says that “Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance. Whether a team succeeds or fails is all up to the leader. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team.”

In this case, Meyer set the wrong tone for the team, and the team failed because of his poor leadership.

[Photo WJXT News4Jax]

The Grinch who Fired 900 Employees on Zoom before Christmas

What kind of boss fires 900 employees on Zoom right before Christmas?

When you think you’ve seen the worst in corporate leadership behavior, a story comes along that is almost hard to believe.

You may have heard about it.

On December 1, CEO of the mortgage company Better.com, Vishal Garg, hastily summoned 900 U.S. employees onto a Zoom call.

In the call, he announced that all of their employment was “terminated effective immediately.” The 900 fired employees represented 9% of Better.com’s workforce.

What’s even more strange is the week before the call, the company had received $750 million as part of their public offering. Better.com was rich with cash and had more than $1 billion on its balance sheet.

But that didn’t matter to Vishal Garg.

People are a problem to a boss like him, whose personal net worth is over $4 billion. They are a nuisance, a bother, and an expense that needs to be eliminated.

Many bosses see people as a problem that needs to be eliminated. Click To Tweet

It didn’t matter that it was Christmas or that these 900 employees had helped build Better.com into a company worth more than $7 billion.


To Garg, these workers stood in the way of his goals, so he simply fired them all.

No notice. No warning. No mercy.

And this isn’t the first time the brash, impetuous, and often volatile Garg has shown a complete lack of care for his workers. According to former employees, Garg’s aggressive and insensitive behavior created a toxic work environment.

In one example, he wrote an abusive email to a group of employees that said, “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS and…DUMB DOLPHINS get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.”

His outbursts, put-downs, and insults caused problems for staffers and forced many good employees to quit.

But the mass firing seemed to be the final blow to the fractured culture.

Since the event, many high-ranking executives have fled the company, including the head of marketing, vice president of communications, and public relations director.

And even more resignations are expected.

One worker told The Daily Beast that after the mass firing, “[The] company culture took a DEEP dive, and everyone I’ve spoken to is looking to leave.”

Now, I don’t know much about Vishal Garg, but I know a lot about leadership. And Garg is not a leader.

He failed to understand the basic principle I wrote about in I Have the Watch that leadership is a people business.

Leadership is a people business. Click To Tweet

It’s about motivating people towards a goal, not harassing them to do your bidding.

And the heart of great leadership is treating people with respect.

Narcissistic bosses like Garg forget that leaders are responsible for both the mission AND the people. All they care about is filling their personal bank account.

When you treat people like a problem and a nuisance, you destroy the culture. And when you kill the culture, you lose any chance of accomplishing your mission.

Better.com is now a damaged business due to the actions of another lousy boss.

What kind of boss fires 900 employees on Zoom right before Christmas? A bad one.

Don’t be a bad boss.


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