The word ‘Tyrant’ sends various images when mentioned; none of them a pleasant picture. But as an employer or a key-decision maker in a business, will you be ready when the tyrant strikes? According to Wikipedia, “A tyrant is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or person, or one who has usurped legitimacy.” A tyrant is often described as a cruel person.
“The customer is King,” and the customer is always right are business mantras that have been around for quite a while. In various parts of the world including Ghana, efforts are continuously being made to exceed customer expectations while increasing profitability through various methods. What happens though when the ‘King’ turns tyrant? A tyrant customer can end up terrorising and oppressing your employees with abusive words and even physical abuse.
The question I ask is, are Ghanaian Human Resource policies silent on these? Are there procedures in place to prevent such occurrences and even address them when they happen? Are these incidents addressed or dismissed as ‘mere’ occupational hazards?
The king turning tyrant is not hypothetical. For example, on 10 November 2017, the Daily Mail Online featured an article where a ‘crazed’ woman jumped over a Burger King counter and began hitting and slapping an employee of the company. In another incident, a customer attacked a staff because he did not like the milkshake he was served with, and in yet another incident, a customer attacked an employee because he wanted the air conditioner turned down because he was feeling hot.
I was impressed once when I walked into a company which had a notice that implied that the company was prepared to serve their ‘Kings’ to the best of their abilities, however, if the King (customer) turned tyrant towards the company’s ‘front liners,’ the necessary action was going to be taken. Employees working in such an environment would be ready to give off their best (all other things being equal) knowing that their employer ‘has their back.’ This is in contrast with a company that is silent on such matters and thus an employee would be unsure of their fate if any abusive incident happened to them.
In most cases, the question is, “Who gets blamed: is it just one of the people in the fight or both?” Who should be liable for any injuries or damages? Should the employer have provided better security or done something else to prevent the attack?
Unfortunately, all too often, the person who has been attacked is disciplined right along with the attacker. This is particularly true if the attacker is a customer or client, in which case the employer often dismisses the employee to mitigate possible liability.
As efforts are made to serve external customers and improve upon services and products in Ghana, my view is that organisations and HR practitioners should also look keenly and closely at policies and procedures that would create a balance and a win-win situation between the organisation and customers, internal and external. As external customers are served, internal customers should also be protected to enable them give off their best. The organisation should not falter either way lest they end up raising and harbouring internal tyrants. The Golden Rule would apply here as well. Finally, to use the words of Stephen R Covey, “Always treat your employees exactly as you would want them to treat your best customers.’’
The legal issues involved with discipline or termination following a fight can be very complicated and vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. Employees in unionized workplaces should immediately contact their union representatives. Those in non-union workplaces may face a more untenable situation, in that they might be disciplined or terminated whether the fight was their fault or not.
Whenever an attack occurs, the first thing to do is call the police. Even if the attacker has left the scene, creating an accurate police report can go a long way to establishing your rights in both criminal and civil cases. Also, talk to any witnesses, get their take on what happened, and collect their contact information in case you need to call them as witnesses later.
Once you have left the scene, contact an attorney. A lawyer will be able to advise you about your legal rights in the situation, help to shield you from possible liability in case the attacker said you started the fight or injured him/her while defending yourself, and guide you through the entire legal process from making your demands to collecting your final judgment.