Reader suspends belief at worker’s suspension

I was surprised at the plant engineer's decision to suspend Alex Corning in the Human Side of Engineering case, "Is an error sufficient grounds for dismissal?" (PE, January 1998, p 15).
By Staff June 1, 1998

I was surprised at the plant engineer’s decision to suspend Alex Corning in the Human Side of Engineering case, “Is an error sufficient grounds for dismissal?” (PE, January 1998, p 15).

Corning, the repairman that dropped the instrument, causing damage exceeding $2000, was given a week’s suspension. He was described as an “exemplary employee,” from whom “no willful or reckless behavior was involved,” and he was “honest in taking the blame for the accident.” If these statements are correct, I find it difficult to understand how a one week suspension can be justified.

Over the 35 yr that I have been in the manufacturing business, I have seen tools broken and expensive parts scrapped. In several cases, the damage far exceeded Alex Corning’s $2000 accident. The cause in most cases is not recklessness, carelessness, or negligence. In a manufacturing environment, everybody, whether they are plant engineers, maintenance personnel, or machine operators, are making decisions involving work pieces and equipment that may be worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is reasonable to expect that everybody will take steps to avoid costly mishaps, but if an honest accident happens and the person responsible is suspended for a week, people are going to be reluctant to make any decisions or try to improve processes.

I have never worked in a union shop, but it seems that this is just the sort of arbitrary discipline that makes employees feel they need a union to protect them.

If I were in Alex Corning’s place, I would make the most of my week’s suspension by making every effort to find new employment at a plant that treats their employees well, so that I would not have to work for tyrants like Phil Forrester or Gary Gleason.

— Roger Burdick, Winsted, CT