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Case Study on Employee Misconduct in Campus Snack Bar


My name is Susan, and I'm a business stu-dent at Mt. Eagle College. Let me tell you about one of my worst experiences. I had a part-time job in the campus snack bar, The Devil's Den. At the time. I was 21 years old and a junior with a concentration in finance. I originally started work-ing at the Den in order to earn some extra spending money. I had been working there for one semester and became upset with some of the happenings. The Den was managed by contract with an external com-pany, College Food Services (CFS). What bothered me was that many employees were allowing their friends to take free food and the employees them-selves were also taking food in large quantities when leaving their shifts. The policy was that employees could eat whatever they liked free of charge while they were working, but it had become common for employees to leave with food and not to be charged for their snacks while off duty as well. I felt these problems were occurring for several reasons. For example, employee wages were low, there was easy access to the unlocked storage room door, and inventory was poorly controlled. Also. there was weak supervision by the student managers and no written rules or strict guidelines.


It seemed that most of the employees were enjoying freebies, and it had been going on for so long that it was This case was prepared by Kim Icarson te.1cr the supervision of Pmfessor R Coln; Babson Cent BABSON Copyright 0 21:04 by Babson College and Imensol for *4 Ka-bon to Harvard Business School PNNtaunif No part of this publication may be reproduced. stored in a reneal system. used m a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any toms cc by any remans—ekttrome. rrsecKamcal. photocomusg. recording, or othemmse—without thc permsswn of coonght bolder. 

taken for granted. The problem got so far out of hand that customers who had seen others do it felt fret to do it whether they knew the workers or not. The employees who witnessed this never challenged anyone because, in my opinion, they did not care and they feared the loss of friendship or being frowned upon by others. Apparently, speaking up was more costly to the employees than the loss of money to CFS for the unpaid food items. It seemed obvious to me that the employees felt too secure in their jobs and did not feel that their jobs were in jeopardy. The employees involved were those who worked the night shifts and on the weekends. They were students at the college and were under the super-vision of another student, who held the position of manager. There were approximately 30 student employees and 6 student managers on the staff. During the day there were no student managers; instead, a full-time manager was employed by CFS to supervise the Den.

Problems with Employee Food Benefits


The employees and student managers were mostly freshmen and sophomores, probably because of the low wages, inconvenient hours (late weeknights and weekends), and the duties of the job itself. Em-ployees were hard to come by; the high rate of employee turnover indicated that the job qualifications and the selection process were minimal. The student managers were previous employees chosen by other student managers and the full-time CFS day manager on the basis of their ability to work and on their length of employment. They received no further formal training or written rules beyond what they had already learned by working there. The student managers were briefed on how to close the snack bar at night but still did not get the job done properly. They received authority and responsibility over events occurring during their shifts as manager, although they were never actually taught how and 


iwhen to enforce it! Their increase in pay was small, from a starting pay of just over minimum wage to an , additional 15 percent for student managers. Regular :employees received an additional nickel for each sc-. ( mester of employment. -. Although I only worked seven hours per week, , I was in the Den often as a customer and saw the problem frequently. I felt the problem was on a large r. enough scale that action should have been taken, not 1. only to correct any financial loss that the Den might t have experienced but also to help give the student employees a true sense of their responsibilities, the .• limits of their freedom, respect for mks. and pride in their jobs. The issues at hand bothered my con-science, although I was not directly involved. I felt that the employees and customers were taking ad-vantage of the situation whereby they could "steal" food almost whenever they wanted.


I believed that I had been brought up correctly and knew right from wrong, and I felt that the happenings in the Den were wrong. It wasn't fair that CFS paid for others' greed-iness or urges to show what they could get away with in front of their friends. I was also bothered by the lack of responsibil-ity of the managers to get the employees to do their work. I had seen the morning employees work very hard trying to do their jobs, in addition to the jobs the closing shift should have done. I assumed the night managers did not care or think about who worked the next day. It bothered me to think that the morning employees were suffering because of careless em-ployees and student managers from the night before.

Poor Management and Weak Supervision


I had never heard of CFS mentioning any problems or taking any corrective action; therefore, I wasn't sure whether they knew what was going on, or if they were ignoring it. I was speaking to a close fricnd, Mack, a student manager at the Den, and I mentioned the fact that the frequently unlocked door to the storage room was an easy exit through r . • winch I had seen different quantities of unpaid 'goods taken out. I told him about some specific instances and said that I believed that it happened 'rather frequently. Nothing was ever said to other suspended nor threatened with losing his Job nor was the event even mentioned). Instead, he was just told to stay away from the register. I felt that this weak punishment happened not because he was a good worker but because he worked so many hours and it would be difficult to find someone who would work all those hours and remain working for more than a few months.


Although a customer reported the incident, I still felt that management should have taken more corrective action. The attitudes of the student managers seemed to vary. I had noticed that one in particular, Bill, always got the job done. He made a list of each small duty that needed to be done, such as restocking, and he made sure the jobs were divided among the employ-ees and finished before his shift was over. Bill also stared down employees who allowed thefts by their friends or who took freebies themselves; yet I had never heard of an employee being challenged ver-bally, nor had anyone ever been fired for these ac-tions. My friend Mack was concerned about theft, or so I assumed, because he had taken some action about locking the doors, but he didn't really get after employees to work if they were slacking off.


I didn't think the rest of the student managers were good motivators. I noticed that they did little work themselves and did not show much control over the employees. The student managers allowed their friends to take food for free, thereby setting bad examples for the other workers, and allowed the employees to take what they wanted even when they were not working. I thought their attitudes were shared by most of the other employees: not caring about their jobs or working hard, as long as they got paid and their jobs were not threatened. I had let the "thefts" continue without mention because I felt that no one else really cared and may even have frowned upon me for trying to take ac-tion. Management thus far had not reported signifi-cant losses to the employees so as to encourage them to watch for theft and prevent it. Management did not threaten employees with job loss, nor did they provide employees with supervision.


themselves or were clearly aware of what was going on and just ignored it. I felt that others may have frowned upon me and made it uncomfortable for me to continue working there. This would be very dif-ficult for me, because I wanted to become a student manager the next semester and did not want to cre-ate any waves that might have prevented me from doing so. I recognized the student manager position as a chance to gain some managerial and leadership skills, while at the same time adding a great plus to my resume when I graduated. Besides, as a si manager, I would be in a better position to do thing about all the problems at the Den that bo me so much. What could 1 do in the meantime to cl. conscience of the freebies, favors to friends employee snacks? What could I do without my chances of becoming a student manager someday? I hated just keeping quiet, but 1 want to make a fool of myself.




Provide a cover sheet for this analysis with the class title, names of group members, and date.

  1. What is the defined policy regarding employees eating on the job at Devil’s Den? Quote the source exactly.
  1. Is the policy being followed?
  1. Are any employees behaving unethically in this particular situation?-- Provide arguments/discussion for the answer ‘yes’ and the answer ‘no’.
  1. Remember, CFS has a contract to manage the operations of Devil’s Den. Do(es) the practice(s) present risks to CFS? What risks if any?
  1. Provide a possible plan of action to correct the problem(s). Be comprehensive…from the top - down.
  1. What might repercussions be (consider both, positive and negative effects) to these actions?

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