Doing the "right" thing (and getting fired for it)

Operating a business is challenging. I've managed software companies and restaurants and there was never a shortage of difficult decisions to make. I want to share a story about a choice I made, how it cost me my job, and how I was rewarded for it.

I was managing a restaurant near Rockefeller Center in New York City many years ago. It was the first week of December and business was crazy (as it always is that time of year). The owner came in to visit and dropped a bombshell on me. He decided that he wanted to be open for Christmas eve & day.

First, I have worked lots of Christmases at other restaurants in the past, but it was always busy and we knew going in that we had to work. In this scenario, Rockefeller Center is dead on Christmas so there's barely any money to be made, and it's three weeks before Christmas and the staff had already made plans.

I expressed to the owner as politely as possible that we would barely break even for the day and that even if we made some money, it would devastate the staff to force them to work after they had already planned their holiday.

His reply was that it was his restaurant and he is in the business of making money and if he wants to be open, we'll be open.

I calmly said that I disagreed with his decision and would be unable to schedule the staff for Christmas. He asked me if I was refusing to do my job. I answered, "if that's how you see it, then I guess I am."

He held out his hand and said, "I guess you're done then. Take care." I picked up my things and left the restaurant. I was fired.

Others may disagree with my actions, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. I'm no crusader, I've certainly stood by on many occasion and said nothing when I felt that something wasn't right. But since that moment, it's been much easier to speak up when I felt I needed to.

I think we all have this little voice inside of us telling us the right thing to do. Sometimes we listen, sometimes we don't. When it comes to "making money", it can become harder to hear that voice. However, I have found that the world has a way of rewarding companies and people that try to make the "right" choices.

Of course the story has a happy ending. The staff heard about what I had done and I suddenly had 50 best friends. The owner decided not to open for Christmas (never found out why, but I'd like to think that I played a part). I quickly got a job at another restaurant where I made more money, had more fun, and the best part is... I met my wife.


-- from www.restaurantalley.com

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Comment by Patrick O on September 4, 2009 at 6:58pm
It doesn't matter how often you fall into the mud, it's whether you come up smelling like roses is what actually matter's!
Comment by Jeff Schacher on September 2, 2009 at 7:32am
Great quote Debra, I haven't heard that one before. Thanks!

Non-Operator
Comment by Keith Bernhardt on September 1, 2009 at 4:56pm
What a cool story.
Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe it.
Comment by Steve Paterson on September 1, 2009 at 4:53pm
Things always seem to work themselves out...I guess because they have to.

Your story reminds me of something I went through many years ago in Victoria, BC

I was managing a restaurant called Paradise Grill downtown and the owner walked in a week before Thanksgiving and decided he wanted to be the only restaurant open in the city on Thanksgiving Day. I'm told him 'okay' but that I thought it was a bad idea. No time for marketing...so nobody would even know we were open...not to mention no foot traffic, just like your Rockefeller Plaza.

The only customer we had that entire day was the owner and his family.

Shooting from the hip is fine in some situations...but in this case...planning well ahead is prudent.

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