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The Worst Boss Ever?

You’ve heard stories about bad bosses. And you’ve heard stories about workplace wagers.  But have you heard the one about the boss who held a contest in which all employees were asked to predict which of them would be the next one fired, with a cash prize awarded to the winner?

The boss, who owns a convenience store chain, outlined the rules of the game in a memo sent to all employees. It said:

New Contest – Guess The Next Cashier Who Will Be Fired!!! 
To win our game, write on a piece of paper the name of the next cashier you believe will be fired. Write their name [the person who will be fired], today’s date, today’s time, and your name.  Seal it in an envelope and give it to the manager to put in my envelope.
Here’s how the game will work:  We are doubling our secret-shopper efforts, and your store will be visited during the day and at night several times a week.  Secret shoppers will be looking for cashiers wearing a hat, talking on a cell phone, not wearing a QC Mart shirt, having someone hanging around/behind the counter, and/or a personal car parked by the pumps after 7 p.m., among other things.
If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10 CASH.  Only one winner per firing unless there are multiple right answers with the exact same name, date, and time.  Once we fire the person, we will open all the envelopes, award the prize, and start the contest again.
And no fair picking Mike Miller from (the Rockingham Road store).  He was fired at around 11:30 a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on his cell phone. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!
Not surprisingly, the memo did not go over well.  In fact, several employees quit in protest. 
When one of them filed for unemployment benefits, the boss challenged the claim, arguing the employee should not get benefits because she voluntarily quit.  At the hearing, the company’s representative said the boss created the contest to try to get employees to follow company rules.  The administrative law judge ruled that the employee was justified in quitting, and thus entitled to benefits, because the boss had created “an intolerable and detrimental work environment.”  
We shouldn’t have to tell you there are more-effective methods of human resources management than the technique utilized here.  But this case does present the opportunity to review several principles: 
·       Don’t send memos or emails written in anger or frustration.  Cool off.  Edit.  Re-think the message and the reason for sending it.  Edit again.  If still in doubt, talk to your lawyer or human resources support.  Then decide whether to send. 
·       Keep personnel matters private.  Details about the reasons for disciplinary actions taken against another employee should be shared only with those in management or human resources who have a need to know.   
·       When managing employees, remember the old maxim that it’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.  Intimidation, negativity, and sarcasm are not the best ways to motivate people to do things for you.  
·       Follow the Golden Rule—treat employees (even those who need to be disciplined or fired) the way you would want to be treated, i.e., with dignity and respect. 
·       Provide personnel-management training to company supervisors.  Then make sure their managers hold them accountable for the way they treat their subordinates.   
Now go back and read the bad boss's memo again.  Then re-write it (or at least think about how you would re-write it) to convey the necessary message in an appropriate and effective way.

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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
Boyd Byers Image
Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
Jason Lacey Image
Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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