Early in January, store manager Don Watson chased a thief who had fled an Alabama Walmart with over $1,000 worth of goods. With the help of security personnel at a nearby apartment complex, he stopped the culprit, getting a punch in the nose for his trouble.
A month later, Watson got a second, figurative punch in the nose: he was fired. For violating protocol.
Walmart thinks he should have stayed put, sticking to the rules rather than sticking his neck out.
“I thought I was protecting the company,” he says.
I can understand a policy requiring employees to avoid unnecessary risks; it’s motivated by the desire to prevent lawsuits and prevent harm to employees. But to fire the man for violating this policy in the heat of the moment and acting heroically — especially when they’ve asked him to keep theft down? Come on.
That’s just wrong.
Higher-ups could instead have taken Watson aside, reiterated the what and why of the fine print, and advised him that although they appreciate his actions, he must stay put if something similar happens. They didn’t.
So, what statement is Walmart making by firing Mr. Watson? What is the company saying to other employees, customers, and, for that matter, potential thieves?
It’s not just “we care about the lives of our employees,” but also “we have no sense of proportion” and “we discount courage and initiative in the defense of our property.”
The store can still make this right, though.
Re-hire the guy. At least.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.