Streetcar Conductor Management Blues

What would you do? The story in the media in November 2011 about the TTC streetcar conductor who chased after a rider suspected of assaulting another rider, both of whom ran away poses questions for managers:

Were the streetcar conductor’s actions appropriate?

While laudable to many that the individual acted to chase down, with an objective to presumably try to apprehend the suspect, this raises serious concerns first for the safety of the other passengers on the streetcar; and secondly for the employee himself.

The TTC’s and the conductor’s duty is to the passengers on the streetcar, who could conceivably be put at various risks if left alone on the streetcar – do they leave on their own between stops into the flow of traffic; what if someone else becomes ill; what if….  Is it a proper extension of this duty to chase the suspect?  No.  Would it have been proper to implement the protocol at hand – reportedly to call Central Command and request that 911 be contacted?  Yes.

What should the TTC do in response?

What was reported in the media is that there was an initial release from duty, followed by a discussion with the employee, with the potential for termination.

One of the criteria a manager can use to assist decision-making is, ‘will my intended treatment of the individual be understood by this person’s peers to be fair?’

If this person’s actions are lauded – does this mean it is the expectation of other staff to do the same?

If this person’s actions are accepted or ignored – does this mean it does not matter what an employee does in relation to policy?  Does it not matter to the organization that this person potentially put the other passengers or his life at risk?

When might an employee be given discretion to do something contrary to policy?

As a manger, in the follow-up meeting with the employee, what are you looking for the employee to say, (given that this is an isolated incident and not one of a series of other similar actions)?  Has this been a learning experience?

  • Awareness of the policy and duty to the passengers, and risks of the actions taken
  • Acceptance that the policy will guide actions in the future

What are the progressive steps in your disciplinary process?  Given the element of risk with regard to not following the policy, consideration would be given to proceed beyond the usual  first step of reviewing a policy and getting understanding of its importance.

There are times at work as frontline staff or as a manger where you need to balance your personal response from your role and duty of your position.  In this case the inclination was dangerous for the employee and put others at risk.

Since this issue is now in the public eye, what further communication do you need to do in consideration of the public’s perception of the TTC?  While actions taken about the individual should remain confidential, it is important to iterate the duty of the conductor to the passengers on the streetcar, the tools at hand for TTC staff to use in such cases.

When should there be employee discretion allowed to act contrary to policy?

  • Never
  • If a crime is being permitted
  • If the action consistent with the policy is not fitting with the current situation