What would you do if one of your employees tackled someone on company property? That was the decision facing Best Buy recently. Tyler, a security guard for one of the company’s stores in the Sacramento area, witnessed a police officer get knocked down by a fleeing suspect in the store’s parking lot. Tyler ran across the lot and tackled the suspect, who was arrested on outstanding warrants and possession of methamphetamine, stolen property and burglary tools. But because Best Buy has a policy that forbids employees from touching patrons, he was fired. After a community uproar due, in part, to the inevitable viral video, he was offered his job back.
In managing employees, I have always been a fan of behavior patterns. A one-time event does not constitute a pattern. The first time is an anomaly. After all, what are the chances of this same employee tackling someone else in the parking lot or anywhere else? I would have had a chat with Tyler, verified the facts and reminded him of the policy.
The second time, you take notice. If Tyler comes in physical contact with another customer, it’s time to have a more serious conversation about personal boundaries and why the policy is in place. I might also warn him that another incident may be grounds for termination. The third time is a pattern. Regardless of what happens, it’s probably time for Tyler to find another job.
Of course, all of this assumes that the company has given the store manager the latitude to use his or her judgment. It has become all too common for firms to retain control for decisions requiring judgment at the corporate level. When this happens, managers feel mistrusted and simply push everything “upstairs,” resulting in decisions such as this one. On top of this, the firm suffers a black eye, when news of the incident spreads internally and externally. Look around your organization. What decisions and authority, presently controlled by the people at the top, should be pushed down to those who should be trusted and compelled to make them?