The Tea Lady Principle

In October 1987, Bruce Sheppard and Kevin Gilligan discussed hiring a new team member, prior to Bruce heading off on a period of leave. To describe the recruitment process, Bruce used an analogy called the ‘Marsden Robinson tea lady principle’. Kevin asked what that was and Bruce went onto explain:

“You want a new manager, you promote the assistant manager to manager, the senior accountant to assistant manager, the junior accountant to senior accountant, the receptionist to junior accountant, the tea lady to receptionist, and hire a tea lady.”

“Cool.” Said Kevin.

Bruce had thought he was conveying a message to promote someone from the existing team and recruit a new junior accountant. So, he left and enjoyed one of only two overseas holidays in his life, at the Gold Coast for two weeks.

On his return, Bruce was quite surprised to find a new tea lady complete with tea trolley delivering drinks to everyone at their desks. Kevin hadn’t quite joined the dots and had hired an actual tea lady because he didn’t have one to promote.

“She was cheap I got her from WINZ, I don’t have to pay her at all. Nothing like a free staff member, what a deal!”

Bruce told Kevin to get rid of her. Kevin tried to fire her, she pulled a knife on him, then was disarmed, and escorted from the premises.

Kevin said, “That was a close call.”

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Bruce Sheppard & Marion Garlick.