Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tim Horton’s Employee fired for giving child timbit

[Update below she has since been rehired]

I am working on my Masters in Public Administration. I’m learning lots about the rules and policies when instead, we should be learning more about how to be a good manager, and as future (or current) public servants, how we should work within rules and policies.

Sure there was a rule broken.

But there are different approaches to managing the situation.

You can be an administrator or a leader.

So why can’t more companies work within these principles?

Pieces of legislation like any type of regulation or the accountability act leave no room for flexibility.

But should they?

Canadians can’t trust their governments to use their funds responsibly.

Recent announcements like the RCMP "raid" and the CBC execs living it up in $1000/hotels send a pessimistic message about the government's ability to use funds within the set rules/limitations.

In my line of work, we have an income level cut off, and those who make more than the level are ineligible to apply for financial assistance. If a person makes $28,000, but the cut off is $27,500 a part of me wants write a policy exception to help this person out. The problem is, if I write one policy exception, there are 100 more stories like her out there and the toughest part of my job is knowing we have limited funding and can’t help everyone. Sometimes rules are in place for a reason.

But there is a different between public and private organizations.

Private companies are a different story. They don’t have to be accountable to the public (aside from being good corporate citizens). They answer to their shareholders. Private companies have the flexibility to be innovative and are rewarded for taking risks, breaking rules and old ways of doing things and reinventing.

Sure, we’ve seen private-sector scandals like Enron and the like, but is a timbit really theft?

Now, I would have to consult my colleague who is studying law to know for certain, but (keeping in mind I’m not a law-student and I only have memories of grade 11 law, and movies like Legally Blonde), I think we should ask, was the crime of theft actually committed? Was there mens rea (guilty conscience)? Did this employee knowing it was against the rules.

We couldalso think about the "theft is theft” campaign like stealing satellite/cable or even downloading copyrighted music.

I remember when I was around 7 years old. I was in the grocery store with my mom in the produce section. She was buying grapes, but there was no sign to indicate the grapes were seedless or not. So the plunked a grape off and passed it to me to tell me if it was seedless or not. I remember refusing, raising my voice saying, “no mom, that’s stealing.” She wasn’t too impressed, but it wasn’t my intention to embarrass her in the store. But this story does make you think about how a child learns and sees honesty and theft.

Going back to the initial story, this Tim Horton’s employee gave a regular customer’s child a timbit. Tim Horton’s fired this employee. Why?

Giving food away free is against the rules, said Tim Hortons district manager Nicole Mitchell.
"Employees aren't allowed to give out free products and that's the bottom line," she said. "She gave out free product and it doesn't matter if it is a Timbit or a coffee or a doughnut or 10 sandwiches or what."
I think it does matter.

I'm sure there are people out there who will say, "well if that's the company policy, then that's the policy"

Sorry! Not good enough and just a poor demonstration of lack of leadership and management ability. It doesn't matter if this is what critics speculate as a "problem employee" and this was perhaps the last straw trying to find a reason to get her fired. It's not good business practice. I foresee that because they caught her on videotape, the managers were out to get her, as going through security cameras is a cumbersome activity.

Losing Nicole Lilliman is not what Tim Horton’s only loss.

If I was upper management, I would be pissed that this hit the MSM and blogs. Look what it has done for the image of the company.

Not only could they lose that regular customer, but now that the G&M picked up the story—and over 350 comments were generated in less than 12 hours—customers may not want to support a company whose lack of vision and rigid management and treatment of employees.

I’ve already made the switch to Starbucks. Yet another reason in my book!

Update: National Post reports that she has been rehired, but is working at a different location


Blogger kursk said...

A butcher views it as good policy to give you a 'taste' of whatever you are buying..perhaps some sausage, same with a cheese shop...

All these products are consumables, and especially with doughnuts have a very short shelf life.

Just think how much goodwill was created for a longtime customer, who has 'paid' for that timbit a thousand times over with their purchases of overpriced hot caffeinated water?

What does a timbit cost? A third of a penny or less to make?

Seems a very expensive lesson to teach considering now the loss of goodwill amongst the customer base and loss of business.

All it shows to me is that Tim Hortons cares more about a 1/3 penny confection than its customers.

Thu May 08, 11:30:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that all Tim Hortons locations are independently owned and operated. Head office has little direct control over individual operations. I learned that when my sister in law had a run in with one of their ever-so-pleasant barely-speaking-english immigrant employees. While head office was sympathetic and called her directly to try and rectify the situation she was also told that they have very little control over the operations of the individual stores and it will be up to the manager/owner to pursue andy disciplinary action.

Thu May 08, 12:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jarrett said...

Bad company policy is just that. Sucks but true. You break the rules, you lose. When I did the manual labour thing in a grocery store, we were encouraged to give people free stuff. It created a sense of obligation and loyalty. And convinced people they wanted to buy things, kinda like crack dealer psychology. But we were encouraged to do so.

Of course, the law student in me just wants to manipulate the strict rules in a way which would help this woman out. Any self-respecting provincial court judge would've simply made up some cock and bull story about the company execs not being credible and would've sent the woman on her way.

Thu May 15, 11:07:00 PM EDT  

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