Re-Imagine……. Snow Removal

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

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A business owner from Minnesota called me the other day to talk about a recent event related to his snow removal staff that has forced him to re-imagine how his company conducts snow removal services since the city of Minneapolis has decided to re-imagine its police force.

At 3:15 a.m. during a recent snow event, one of the business owner’s employees was performing standard snow shoveling duties, clearing the driveway at a residence in a housing complex under contract to the company. Bound by extreme weather, engulfed in snow-draped darkness, and focused exclusively on the physically-demanding task at hand, the employee was suddenly accosted by three imposing individuals.

Startled at the presence of anyone at that time of night, the unsuspecting employee knew immediately these people were not HOA job quality inspectors. Forcefully, the shortest of the three men demanded the employee give the keys to the house to them; an erroneous request by the hoodlum mistakenly thinking the targeted employee was the actual homeowner. With the three individuals now encroaching well within his personal space, the endangered employee responded by stating that he did not have the house keys, was not the homeowner, and was simply performing snow removal as part of his job in this neighborhood. The aggressor repeated his demand loudly; the employee repeated his response quietly.

The thug then pulled out a pistol and shoved it into the employee’s chest, demanding his keys, money, wallet, and cell phone.

Maybe you didn’t read that as you should have, the first time. So let me repeat it: The thug shoved a pistol into the snow shoveler’s chest.

Re-imagine that for another minute…

The threatened employee complied, hoping such concession would spare his life. Once the criminal posse received his possessions, they proceeded to physically assault the employee to the point of bloodshed, beaten, battered, and left on the frozen ground no doubt wondering how he would “re-imagine” his bruised face and body for the remainder of his forever-altered life. Miraculously, the criminals left him alive and continued forward to their next unwary victim.

Upon hearing this incident, the business owner took multiple noble steps. First, he made an incident report outlining the event details to the Minneapolis Police Department, to which the Police Department responded that due to city council budget cuts and staff reductions, no investigation of this event would take place since it did reach the new re-imagined threshold of what constitutes a serious crime. No police report would be developed; the event never happened.

Imagine that. Sorry, I meant, re-imagine that.

Second, the business owner commended the employee for doing the right thing. As a predicate, the owner had an immediate team meeting with the entire snow team, recounted the event in detail, and instructed each employee to “not be a hero” in such disproportionate settings (e.g., at night, dark, snow, three against one, gun presence), and to comply with aggressors’ demands by concentrating on immediate personal survival not societal procedural justice. Third, the business owner informed the Property Manager of that site about the facts that unfolded. In specific, the business owner told the Property Manager that all snow removal services as part of that current contract would cease immediately. And finally, the business owner made the prudent decision to not bid any more snow work in those parts of the city that were identified as “high risk” thereby placing the safety of his snow employees above customer demands and revenue goals.

Take some time, to re-imagine what you would do in a similar setting…

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.