The ABC Manufacturing Company is a metal working plant under the direction of a plant manager who is known as a strict disciplinarian. One day a foreman noticed Bhola, one of the workers, at the time-clock punching out two cards his own and the card of Nathu, a fellow worker. Since it was the rule of the company that each man must punch out his own card, the foreman asked Bhola to accompany him to the Personnel Director, who interpreted the incident as a direct violation of a rule and gave immediate notice of discharge to both workers.
The two workers came to see the Personnel Director on the following day. Nathu claimed innocence on the ground that he had not asked for his card to be punched and did not know at the time that it was being punched. He had been offered a ride by a friend who had already punched out and who could not wait for him to go through the punch-out procedure. Nathu was worried about his wife who was ill at home and was anxious to reach home as quickly as possible. He planned to take his card to the foreman the next morning for reinstatement, a provision sometimes exercised in such cases.
These circumstances were verified by Bhola. He claimed that he had punched Nathu’s card the same time he punched his own, not being conscious of any wrongdoing. The Personnel Director was inclined to believe the story of the two men but did not feel he could reverse the action taken. He recognized that these men were good workers and had good records prior to this incident. Nevertheless, they had violated a rule for which the penalty was immediate discharge. He also reminded them that it was the policy of the company to enforce the rules without exception.
A few days later the Personnel Director, the Plant Manager, and the Sales Manager sat together at lunch. The Sales Manager reported that he was faced with the necessity of notifying one of their best customers that his order must be delayed because of the liability of one department to conform to schedule. The department in question was the one from which the two workers had been discharged. Not only had it been impossible to replace these men to date, but disgruntlement over the incident had led to significant decline in the cooperation of the other workers.
The Personnel Director and the Sales Manager took the position that the discha rge of these two valuable men could have been avoided if there had been provision for onsidering the circumstances of the case. They pointed out that the incident was costly to the company in the possible loss of a customer, in the dissatisfaction within the employee group, and in the time and money that would be involved in recruiting and training replacements.
The Plant Manager could not agree with this point of view. “We must have rules if we are to have efficiency; and the rules are no god unless we enforce them. Furthermore, if we start considering all these variations in circumstances, we will find ourselves loaded down with everybody thinking he is an exception. ” He admitted that the grievances were frequent but countered with the point that they could be of little consequence if the contract agreed to by the union was followed to the letter