MODULE 26: “Don't be a Hero” Policies
Core Module Issues:
• Are businesses, and especially retailers, wise to have policies that
prohibit employees from intervening to stop shoplifting and other kinds
• If so, is it appropriate to fire a worker who violates the policy and
actually prevents a crime from occurring?
Module Teaching Notes
On one hand, bank robbery is a low percentage game. Police catch a large percentage of such criminals.
But, bank robbers do usually “get out the door” with the loot. That is because most banks have strict
policies that prohibit bank employees from doing anything to stop an attempted robbery. Hand over the
money, let the robber go, let the police review the security tapes and track down the bad guy.
And it isn't just banks that have “don't be a hero policies”. It has become common for all kinds of retailers to
follow banks' lead. Grocery stores, electronics stores, clothing retailers, and many other kinds of
businesses have warned their employees to avoid involvement.
But as a society, don't we value standing up to crime? We seem to be very pleased with news reports of
citizens who stop shoplifters and other kinds of bad guys. Videos of such things do quite well on You Tube.
Crime is expensive. Everything costs at least a bit more because of it. Wouldn't we be better off if MORE
people were brave and did what they reasonably could to prevent crime?
Maybe not. A confrontation can turn a non-violent situation into a violent one. A single lawsuit, injury, or
lost life can certainly far outweigh any benefit to stopping a crime.
Companies are well within their rights if they choose to fire a worker who violates a don't be a hero policy
and tries to stop a crime. But should they? Do they risk a public backlash?
Of all modules in the book, this one (at least in my classes) is in the top 5 in terms of scenarios that
generate divided and strong opinions. I have fun teaching it, and I hope you do as well.
In the scenario, two employees are on the hot seat. The first tried to stop a purse snatcher, and was
unsuccessful – the bad guy got away.
The second successfully foiled an iPad thief.
It is interesting to see whether the success of the employee in stopping the crime weighs in to the students'
perception of how the incident should be handled.