A word to the wise

Sometimes the obvious decision isn’t the right decision for the organisation.  It is easy to get focussed on narrow issues, or rush towards a conclusion when a decision seems obvious.

We are all busy and no-one wants to make a big thing of a little thing.   We all need an intelligent friend to nudge us and say “This doesn’t make sense – check it out” or “Are you so sure about that?”

A retailer had half a dozen staff in each of three shops.  He was a very hands-on boss and knew all his staff quite well and saw them regularly.  He regularly opened and closed each of the shops and often worked alongside his staff during the day.

One of his staff had worked for him for a couple of years, and had been quite reliable and hard working.  He started getting into work late and seemed to have lost all interest in the job or getting in on time.

One day, the owner was standing by the door of the shop when the guy turned up 15 minutes late for his shift.   “What time do you call this?” said the boss.  He was met with a mouthful of abuse in front of all the other staff at the shop.

It is very hard for a boss to tolerate being publicly abused in front of their team.  The staff handbook specifically says that swearing and aggressive language is gross misconduct.

Once we got the boss calmed down, we asked him to have a very quiet and private word with the chap to find out what was really going on.  (There was no one else in a managerial role in the business).   With a bit of help from us he found out that:

  • The chap’s wife had left him
  • He had three kids to get to different schools by bus (he had no car)
  • He had not wanted to make it public since he hoped she would return
  • He was really struggling to cope


This particular boss did something many would find difficult.  He decided to give this man a final warning and allow him to continue to work in the business, despite the fact he feared he would lose face in front of his team.  He also altered his working hours so that he started after he had finished the school run, had a shorter lunch break and picked up the kids from school.

Four years later the same man took his boss on one side and said “You were so good to me that time, I really think you ought to know…..some of your staff are organising a lorry to back into the loading bay tonight and steal a major amount of stock…………”  As a result of this, they were stopped (and fired in due course).   The plan was to steal an amount of stock that would have bankrupted the business.

See our previous blog

To be continued ……

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.
Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website :  www.irenicon.co.uk
You can follow Annabel on Twitter


Filed under discipline and dismissal, employment law, performance management

3 responses to “A word to the wise

  1. Pingback: Seeing Red | Employment law in a mad world

  2. Pingback: To catch a thief | Employment law in a mad world

  3. Pingback: Open and shut | Employment law in a mad world

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