Supervisor must make every effort to avoid shutdown

Building Two second shift Maintenance Group Leader Hugh Donnetz tried futilely to fix the boiler's pressure control gauge when it went crazy at 8:30 p.m. Donnetz couldn't be sure if the problem was a faulty gauge or the pressure itself.
By Raymond Dreyfack October 1, 1999

Building Two second shift Maintenance Group Leader Hugh Donnetz tried futilely to fix the boiler’s pressure control gauge when it went crazy at 8:30 p.m. Donnetz couldn’t be sure if the problem was a faulty gauge or the pressure itself. Only a maintenance specialist in the main building was qualified to make that judgment. Wisely deciding he couldn’t take a chance, Donnetz shut down the boiler, idling 16 employees who were working on an important customer order.

He reached into his pocket for a coin but didn’t find one. Normal telephone service was disconnected on the second shift because unauthorized long distance calls had gotten out of hand. The only available phone was a pay unit. Donnetz who, like other members of the second shift crew, was bitter over discontinuance of free telephone service decided this would teach management a lesson that being chintzy didn’t pay off.

The shift still had 3 1/2 hr to go. The production workers were content to sit on their butts and schmooze. They would be paid anyhow.

Next day when Maintenance Manager Stu Trainer learned what had happened, he gave Donnetz a 10-day suspension.

“It wasn’t my fault that telephone service was cut off and I didn’t have a coin for the pay phone.”

Trainer remained tightlipped. “So you’re telling me that with a 16-man shift you couldn’t have borrowed a coin?”

Donnetz shrugged. “That wasn’t my job.” He threatened to grieve the suspension.

“Grieve away.”

Question: Can Trainer — should Trainer — persist in enforcing the discipline?

Klein’s verdict: “The suspension stands,” Plant Engineer Henry Klein ruled. “Regular phone service was shut off for a valid and reasonable cause. As a group leader, it was Donnetz’s obligation to represent management and act in the company’s best interests. His failure to do so cost the company a lot of money and jeopardized a good account. He’s getting off easy with a 10-day suspension. A better decision might have been to fire him.”