The news of an Indiana Pizza Hut franchise firing its general manager for refusing to make his employees work on Thanksgiving spread predictably fast. So did the news that Pizza Hut Corporate stepped in to offer him his job back:
"Pizza Hut offers GM his job back after Thanksgiving firing goes viral," reported the Chicago Tribune. But the key word that the American public latched onto was unquestionably "after."
After GM Tony Rohr explained his position in a letter to the franchise owner and made it clear that he was not quitting, but understood that his actions could result in his termination. After thousands of people stormed Facebook to shame Pizza Hut with some version of "Give him his job back!" or "I'm boycotting Pizza Hut!" After he was hailed on Twitter as a model of "common sense and compassion in the face of corporate greed" for defending family time.
The pizza had already turned cold.
Later on Friday, Pizza Hut's Facebook page announced that the franchise had complied with their wishes and offered Rohr his job back (though there is no word yet on whether he has accepted). Some Facebookers patted themselves on the back, still in awe of the power of social media to enact social change. A scant few reasoned that the public should not blame the company for the decision of one franchise, and that most Pizza Huts were in fact closed on Thanksgiving. But the vast majority weren't convinced of their sincerity, pointing out that it shouldn't have taken a mountain of pressure to reverse the decision.
A few of the sentiments expressed on Facebook:
- "Should [have] never been fired" (814 likes)
- "Sorry, the damage has been done... my belief in family importance far outweighs my need to ever order from Pizza Hut again"
- A day late and a dollar short… I make a point not to give business to spineless companies who don’t value their employees as human beings.
- Hope he will not be harassed and fired later when everyone is not watching.
- Hiring this man back is just a political move stemming from the public backlash. If there was no outcry he would still be unemployed.
- Too late – I am done with Pizza Hut. Actually ordered Papa John’s Pizza for dinner tonight.
- One word… DOMINOS!!!
This is becoming a pattern. (Remember the international backlash on Adecco?)
While it's not realistic to expect companies to be perfect -- mistakes will be made, and higher-ups will be blamed -- my advice would be to act at the very first whiff of trouble. The first time Pizza Hut addressed the public it was to say, rather vaguely, "We will monitor and evaluate this situation closely and regret what has occurred." The longer the silence, the worse off you'll be. Don't respond with uncertainty or "corporate-speak." When the public has spoken, you'd better be quick to respond -- definitively.