Editorial: Like some strife with that?

Last updated 05:00 25/08/2014

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OPINION: There's an ugly little acronym, FIFO. Fit in or ...

Well, here our memory momentarily deserts us. It'll come to us in a minute. Flit off? Something like that.

But even if this describes workplace reality we should bear in mind that the aftermath can carry consequences for more than just the employee.

A Whangarei teenager has quit her job at KiwiYo after she was told she could not greet customers with "kia ora" - a departure from the rigid little script that the chain's staff are required to chirp.

This has proven one of those cases where the emphatic rules laid down by a boss to a not-so-intimidating employee rapidly evolve into a rather more flexible and reasonable series of guidelines by the time a mortified head office is explaining them to an agitated nation.

Though the clear understanding of the franchise holder was that the script was sacrosanct, the company higher-ups now attest they have no problem with a kia ora being plonked in front of the "Hello, welcome to KiwiYo" patter. In fact, by golly, they will promote this.

An all-but identical controversy arose in 1984. Hapless Postmaster-General Rob Talbot initially stood firm on a kia ora ban, on the grounds that a large number of people didn't understand the meaning. And if they started allowing variations, where would it end?

Anarchy, presumably. Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, returning from overseas, promptly ended the kerfuffle, trumping Talbot and - ever the populist - assuring everybody the only phrase that would get him grizzly was the Australian "gidday".

The more interesting aspect to this latest flare-up is the online criticism of the teenager for not valuing her job enough to stick to instructions and suck up her unhappiness for the sake of paying her way in this life. Unfair. She chose to leave, to publicly explain why, stand accountable for her actions and try to hold her employer accountable for its own (now somewhat shifted) stance. Good on her.

And though we tend to put up with that over-scripted across-the-counter chain-speak, it still rings phoney to our ears. Variations come as a blessed relief.

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- The Southland Times

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