Badly-handled demotion costs NZ employer $11K

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One worker’s vengeful actions have cost a New Zealand boss as much as $11,000 – while also highlighting the importance of handling promotions and demotions properly.

Oliver Rhys Hutchinson had worked his way up the ladder but got knocked down a rung when someone else was hired – the dairy farmer alleges to have approached his manager for an explanation but claims he was never given one.

Angered, the 22-year-old took to sabotage and injected a syringe full of penicillin into milk vat. The contaminated milk was then picked up by a Fonterra tanker where it mixed with milk already in the tanker.

While the contamination was soon uncovered and Hutchinson later charged, 18,000 litres of milk had already been ruined and the cost to his employer was substantial.

Could the five-figure financial loss have been avoided altogether?

HR director Ashley White told HRM that, when breaking bad news, leaders should put themselves in the employee’s position.

“Empathize, but don’t do it in a way that seems insincere,” she advises. “Plan for potential aggressive behaviour and think through alternate paths to get you to a better solution if the conversation goes that route.”

Eventually, Hutchinson was sentenced to two months' community detention also ordered to pay $10,921 in reparation for the milk. While he plans to pay it off, his $20 a week schedule puts the repayment period at a full 10 years and four months.

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