Economy

Security guard sacked at Melbourne pub over anti-gay slurs: Five lessons in crisis management

Yolanda Redrup /

A Melbourne hotel has been praised for its quick response to an incident in which a security guard hit a patron twice and reportedly said, “faggots weren’t welcome”, before kicking the man to the curb.

The situation came to light yesterday when patron and freelance journalist Stephen Russell reported the incident to police, before speaking to the Herald Sun.

Russell had been at the Prahran Hotel on Sunday night and had reportedly gone to the bouncer to report anti-gay slurs made by another patron at the pub.

The bouncer reportedly turned on Russell telling him “it’s not a gay bar” before striking him on the arm twice. The other bouncer present ignored the incident.

After reports of the incident emerged, regular pub patrons and concerned Australians took to social media to express their outrage over the incident, with some users calling for a boycott of the Prahran Hotel.

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Later in the day the pub turned around the negative social media responses and was praised by the online community for its swift investigation and public response.

Prahran Hotel co-owner Andy Mullins posted a long statement on the pub’s page saying the issue had been investigated and the security guard subsequently sacked.

“The two guards involved last night have been sacked and will not ever be working in our venue again, nor in any of the other venues we own and operate.”

“Further, our security contractor will be providing additional training to all of their guards in seeking to ensure this type of behaviour is never repeated. These resolutions were unanimous and made swiftly, as they should be.”

Following the incident, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Management Victoria and Tasmania division Tony Gleeson commended the fast reaction of the Prahran Hotel to the matter and spoke to SmartCompany about how a business should manage a crisis situation.

Keep your staff properly trained

Gleeson says first and foremost the pub shouldn’t have gotten itself into this situation.

“Clearly the security guards needed better training,” he says.

But at least the pub and its security contractor learnt from the incident – Mullins says the security contractor has committed to providing extra training to all of its guards.

Always have a crisis plan ready

Gleeson applauded the swift response of the Prahran Hotel and said it was clear the business had a plan in place for dealing with a situation such as this.

“There needs to be one single voice speaking on behalf of the business and in this case it was Andy Mullins. If you have two people talking, they will have different styles and while in this case they sound compassionate, engaged and willing to work to fix the problems, someone else could have come across as cold,” he says.

Admit there is a problem

Gleeson says in a crisis it’s important to own up to your mistakes.

“Don’t try to cover it up, covering it up always backfires.”

“There are quite a few examples of this… Look at the Essendon Football Club scandal. James Hird denied his knowledge and part in the program, but now there’s more evidence, which has been revealed, it’s clear he did know about the program,” he says.

Gleeson says feigning ignorance makes people come across as “completely silly” and often further damages a person’s brand or reputation.

Respond quickly

Responding in a prompt and appropriate manner can help to mitigate the harm caused by a scandal.

With social media ever-present in people’s lives, issues, which previously could be kept under wraps, are now made public and it’s important to respond to the online community or risk losing patrons along with your reputation.

Gleeson says in a crisis, businesses shouldn’t “shut up shop” and close down their social media channels.

“Don’t run away from it if you want to continue your business. Instead, respond when appropriate and in a single voice.”

Reinforce your company’s value

Gleeson says businesses need to “reinforce” their value proposition when facing a public outcry.

“You should at least try to simply clarify your value proposition. For the pub it was trying to building communities and bring people together, so they should enforce this when they’re engaging,” he says.

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