Managers' Library Home
View all Categories View All Categories

Thursday Insight: Rights vs Right

Thursday Insight: Rights vs Right

As a manager, one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learnt is the difference between what I am within my rights to do and what is the right thing to do. 

Those of you who saw this week’s headlines involving the restaurant chain, Wahaca, might recognise the challenge that the manager faced.

He/she thought that company policy meant that the loss incurred by a customer walking out without paying could be recovered by deducting that loss from the wages of the employee who served their table.

Reading the Wahaca guidelines, as reported, you can see why they were interpreted this way. You can also see why, with the ensuing publicity, the owners of Wahaca said that this policy was wrongly interpreted, and have re-worded it. The revised guidelines make it clear that unless a staff member is complicit in letting a customer leave without paying, they should suffer no financial penalty.

Wahaca should be commended for their swift response, as should the customer who highlighted the problem via social media. 

But this example highlights a common problem: What should we, as managers, do when faced with a situation where we believe strictly applying the organisation’s policy and procedures is not the right thing to do? 

I will always remember my manager’s response when my baby daughter needed major surgery that required me to be off work for 2 months. Without saying a word to me, until it was agreed, she chose not to do what she ‘could' but instead did what she felt she ‘should’. She put in a special request to the senior management team asking for me to be paid throughout the period of absence. Her explanation: “The last thing you need right now is to be worrying about money. Focus on being a Mum.” 

Nineteen years later, her kindness still brings tears to my eyes.

It is often easier to just interpret and follow guidelines; we are within our rights to do so. But we all have the power to do the right thing and challenge the guidelines when following them would achieve the wrong result. If you worry that you can’t, or that your own manager/HR will not allow you, I encourage you to try and see what happens. Your courage might benefit you, the customer (internal or external) and the organisation. If in doubt, talk to managers you respect to see how they would tackle a difficult situation. Listen to their advice. And talk through the challenge you face with your own line manager or HR and ask for their recommendations.

If you are worried that you don’t have the clout needed to achieve a positive outcome, we have a brilliant Study Guide called The Influence Blossom, which will help you plan your approach. I also recommend reviewing the Rights v Right issue faced in Carrie’s Conundrum. Finally, Planning a Difficult Conversation is a great option for getting ready to speak to all parties involved in a Rights v Right situation.

Good luck, I’d love to hear how you get on. 


p.s., Here’s an interesting follow up to the story I’ve mentioned, which indicates that the experience at Wahaca was not unique.

June 20 2019 Frances Ferguson
About the Author

Add New Blog

Frances Ferguson

No comments have been added. The comments box will appear when you are logged in.

Log In here to comment.

Twitter  facebook

Powered by 

Copyright Glasstap® Limited (1999 - 2017)