My Life in Management: is that a gun?
It was a Friday night and the atmosphere was alive with the excitement of ending another work week. People were lined up out the door and down the sidewalk. They were hoping to get a very coveted spot to participate in our Friday evening recreational lights and music extravaganza!
I loved weekend nights and stayed active from the time my shift began until it ended around 2 to 3 in the morning. Our Friday and Saturday night activities produced a large portion of our budget. It was loud, fun, and never the same. This Friday night was no exception and one some of my co-workers would never forget.
The evening was winding down and people were beginning to clear out. Our security guards are scheduled to leave no later than 1 am. We usually have just a handful of people waiting to pay at this point. On this night, however, I remember hearing a man’s voice becoming increasingly louder and he was the final we had to cash out. He was upset with the total price he was quoted and complaining about people who were next to him during the night. This is the moment I stepped in because part of my job, as general manager, was to calm the waters when a customer becomes irate.
It was clear that no matter what was said this customer was not going to be appeased. I remember offering to reduce his bill by 20 percent, a more than generous offer, but this still did not please him and he suddenly became quiet. I noticed he was becoming jittery, nervous like, and he turned to look around the facility. It was at this point I saw he had a gun. I have no idea how he made it past security with a gun but he did.
It was also at this moment that my co-worker noticed the gun. The man began to reach for the gun and everything happened so quickly. Before I knew it my co-worker had literally leaped over the counter and was yelling at me to go to the back office and call the police. As I was heading to the back I remember seeing him take the man to the floor. What happened after that I am not sure but I do know my co-worker was able to secure the man. No one was shot, no one was injured, and the situation had been controlled. Police were on their way and it did not take long for them to arrive.
My co-worker remained and together we closed down the recreational center. We left feeling thankful for our lives and knowing we made it through a potentially life-ending situation with zero harm to anyone. However, we had no idea what we were about to encounter and how it could have changed our career paths.
It was a Monday morning and I remember pulling into the parking lot and recognizing a car from one of my regional managers. My co-manager was already there and was in charge of opening up the facility that morning. I went to the back offices and within a few minutes was asked to join in on an already in progress meeting. They were watching a video replay of the event that took place this past Friday evening. I was expecting praise and empathy for coming through it unscathed but that was not the case.
The regional manager, very calmly, explained that the corporation had a strict hands-off the customers policy and there were no exceptions. He also informed me that I would be placed on probation for allowing a co-worker to place hands on a customer. I was shocked at what he was saying! He was telling me how we would have to let my co-worker go and there was nothing he could do. Don’t you just love those infamous words, “there is nothing I can do!”? Knowing full well there is always something that can be done.
As I snapped out of the shock I became furious and questioned everything. I wanted to know why common sense could not be used in this situation. My co-worker had extensive martial arts training. He felt confident he could diffuse the situation and secure the individual without harm. There are moments in life where rules need to be adjusted and this was most definitely one of those times. We are human and not everything is black and white.
Over the next few weeks, the employees and I rallied together and fought hard to save my co-workers job. During this time I also devised a safety plan to help prevent situations like this from happening in the future. In the end, our team was able to regain our co-workers’ job, my probation was removed from my file, and my safety plan was implemented.