What good is a company policy if you don’t follow it?
Of course, your organization crafts and adopts policies that must be followed by all. These policies aren’t vague; they’re clear and calculated and for good reason: If you don’t have them or don’t enforce them, chaos reigns.
Here’s a better question. What good are policies if you do follow them, but by doing so, cause more damage than if you make some exceptions here and there?
Ah, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Here’s a recent case worth pondering:
A 73-year-old Vietnam veteran was fired from his job at a Florida Cracker Barrel restaurant after he … drum roll … gave away a corn muffin to what appeared to be a homeless man.
Cracker Barrel has a company policy against employees handing out freebies or consuming food without paying for it, and understandably so. The company says it wasn’t the first time the vet, Joe, violated the policy.
So, out goes Joe. He understands why he was fired from his tad-above-minimum-wage job. He broke a rule.
He also said he would do it again, because “a moral issue comes in.” No hard feelings, Joe says. He’ll look for another job.
Here is Cracker Barrel’s statement on the matter:
“[Joe] has worked as a host at Cracker Barrel’s Sarasota store since April 2011. During the time he was employed, he violated the Company’s policies regarding consuming food without paying or giving away free food, on five separate occasions. [Joe] received multiple counselings and written warnings reminding him about the company’s policies and the consequences associated with violating them. On the fifth occasion, again per Company policy, [Joe] was terminated.
“Cracker Barrel is grateful for and honors [Joe’s] service to our country as we honor all service men and women and their families.”
Clearly, this is a PR nightmare for Cracker Barrel.
Who do you think people—customers or otherwise—will line up behind: Cracker Barrel, which has 70,000 employees in 630 locations, which grew revenues in fiscal 2013 by 4.6% to $2.6 billion (according to its own website) and trades on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol CBRL … or Joe?
Here’s another question: The company had a sensible written policy and followed it … so which is worse, a PR problem that will likely disappear in the fast-moving news cycles, or a long-term HR problem when such a policy is adjusted as needed—thus opening the company to possible legal headaches down the line?