Topic: Business & Commercial

Firing the Hero

In vivid case of how one can be courageous, public minded, successful, and wrong, we have the recent example of Seattle bank teller Jim Nicholson. Nicholson violated his bank’s policy by chasing a would-be bank robber out the bank door and into the street, and knocking him down. The bank, which requires its employees to comply with robber demands during robbery attempts to minimize danger and avoid violence, fired him. The bank, Key Bank, is now being attacked as ungrateful, heartless, and stupid.

The bank was right. Nicholson, who seems to be remarkably understanding regarding his employer’s decision, said that his adrenaline just took over, and that he is thrilled by a chase. When the robber handed him a bag and told him to fill it with cash, Nicholson threw it to the floor, demanded to see a weapon, and lunged at the man. That, my friends, is one dangerous teller. In interviews, Nicholson essentially admitted that he couldn’t help himself, and pursued the robber even though he knew he was breaking the bank’s rules. It turned out that robber was unarmed, according to the AP, but what if he had started shooting? What if the robber had killed a bank customer or a bystander on the street while trying to elude Nicholson? It could have happened, and if it did, I’m betting nobody would calling the teller a hero. They would be calling him irresponsible, reckless, and a dangerous loose cannon, and they would be right.

That is exactly what he is. Nicholson has guts and initiative, and there are jobs for people like him—just not working in a bank. His actions were wrong: they risked the lives or others. The bank did the correct thing, the responsible thing.

And no: it should not have given him a farewell bonus, made him Employee of the Month while docking his pay, or any of the other hybrid solutions being thrown around the internet. The bank needed to send an unequivocal message that its policy permits no exceptions, because obeying it is literally a matter of life and death.

Sorry, Jim. Batman send his sympathy.

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