The Rules

After seeing a friend of mine do some blogging, I figured I'd give it a try since it's healthy to express ideas. I ran into a situation at work that I am frustrated with because there's nothing I can do.

Before I get into the main topic of this post I'd like to establish some of my perspectives. I generally follow the utilitarian guidelines of morality, which is usually means that I'm in favor of generating as much happiness as possible for the most amount of people. I am also an individualist generally speaking, and I care about a person's quality of life. To that end, I'm willing to "break a few eggs" generally speaking if it results in a net increase in overall happiness. Finally, my sense of morality is dictated what I believe to be right and wrong based on the amount of happiness derived from an action.

Now, the incident. Last Thursday, as I was working, there was a bit of commotion in the back of the store. Being naturally nosy, I moved in to do some investigative journalism. Queue flustered co-worker walking towards me. I asked what happend, and B explained that he went to the back of the store to find the our facilities maintenance person, K. Apparently K had accidentally thrown B's protein shake(which was recovered without problem) away, so naturally B went to find him and talk to him. After finding K, B simply asked why he'd found his drink in the trash. This led to a heated exchange involving K pushing and using some racially charged language towards B. (K is black, B is white, so use your imagination.)

This came as an extreme surprise to me, given that I've never seen or heard of K doing anything removely similar in the past. Taking the story with a grain of salt, as all I had was heresay, I moved on with my week with this in the back of my mind. Monday and Tuesday passed without further incident, seemingly it had been resolved. Until about 9:00am today. After stepping away for a few minutes and returning, a co-worker mentioned that he'd seen B being escorted without his vest on out of the building. This generally only means one thing. Now I am truly confused. Why did B get fired if it was one heated conversation? Skip to another co-worker and I talking about it, another chimes in that somebody in the store had actually heard first hand what the exchange was. Oh? Really now? I was curious to find out the truth, as generally moral problems are the ones I like thinking about. A short stroll to the back of the store revealed much.

Both assemblers are in the back of the store unboxing a crate containing a shower door. Music is blaring in the background, the sounds of a hammer splintering wood echo through the open area. To hear one another, you must raise your voice. B enters the frame, incendiary, flagging down an assembler to ask K's whereabouts, to which they acquiesce. Mere moments later, the shouting begins. But curiously, this is not a shouting match between two people, it is a one sided verbal assault. B immediately sets into a tirade against K, making numerous implications about the quality of his work and character, even escalating to 'let's take our vests off and go outside' as a resolution. The two split, going their separate ways for the day and that was it.

Isn't it interesting how the story changes based on who's telling it? In one story, we have a victim of a seemingly baseless attack who just wanted to know why his drink had been thrown away. In another, we have a caustic old man who tried to physically fight another employee, a co-worker of which he'd had no previous incidents with, over a protein shake. Which person's true character was revealed here, I wonder?

It goes without saying that B should have been fired for this behavior, as it is a.) unacceptable in of itself and b.) is very revealing as to what he thinks he can get away with.(He was also seen laughing on the way out, incredulous that it had even happened to him.) It follows logically that if you act in this manner, you will receive reprocussions. What doesn't follow, however, is why K was also fired.

After seeing B escorted out, it made me begin to worry about K's future in the store. The store I work in is very much a corporate environment where the rules is the rules and that's just the way it is. Unfortunately for nuance, many establishments have introduced "zero-tolerance" policies on a myriad of generally considered to be dangerous things. I'm sure anybody who bothers to read this knows how harmful these sorts of policies can be, even at the lowest level. For example, schools often have policies similar to this that punish both the bully and the bullied for simply being involved in the conflict at all. There's no accordance for the person instigating the event, no responsibility given to them, only a collective blame. This is obviously incongruent with what I consider moral because things are not as black and white as they first seem.

Let's examine K's perspective for a moment. He walks into work, just like every other day. Clocks in, grabs his vest, checks his responsibilities and gets to work. In the middle of his work now, another employee accosts him violently, invades his personal space to attempt to make a point. Where is this going to lead now? Is he going to swing on me, just posture more? All of these thoughts run through your mind as you try to calculate what to do to resolve this situation. K is much younger and in better shape than B, so surely a display of this will dissolve the tension? A shove back to establish space is given and now that B is pressed in the confrontation, escalate or leave, he chooses the latter. Now, almost a week later, K is pulled aside and let go because of the incident. This is unacceptable.

Zero tolerance means zero nuance. By not examining this situation thoroughly, the company has failed not only both employees, but everybody else adjacent to them that is now affected by their actions. Instead of having a full time and a part time job filled, we have 2 vacant spots for positions hardly anybody applies for. Their job responsibilies will be spread to those whose job it isn't in order to make up for it, continuing the trend of dogpiling those few individuals who actually care about their work.

Unfortunately, I cannot help but feel this trend will continue, as it's all I've ever known them to do.