October is one of my favorite months. The air becomes crisp. The colors are vibrant. And best of all, Halloween is coming!  Frights are fun at Halloween. Some of us even pay to be scared, surprised, and caught off guard at haunted houses, slasher films, or corn mazes.  However, when it comes to HR issues, we want to avoid the same verbs at all cost. This month, in honor of Halloween, I want to talk about scary HR issues, and how to manage them appropriately.

As leaders, we see some issues more frequently than others. You know what I mean; those recurring situations where you say to yourself “seriously?” These are the situations you run across in every organization, no matter the size or type. Take this scenario for instance; you acquired a new team, either in a new organization, or within your current organization. As you evaluate the functionality of the team and their work, you begin to notice a theme. There are a few team members who seem to display what you consider to be disrespectful or negative behavior.. As your get to know your team, your suspicions are confirmed as some employees begin to point out their concern regarding the same behavior you observed. They may tell you that they reported their concerns in the past, but it never seemed to change. Simultaneously while explaining their concerns, they also seem to brush it off as something they just deal with. It’s almost as if they are giving you tips on how to deal with these employees, while at the same time hoping that you will do something about it. They might tell you it’s always been like this, or that everyone has just figured out how to “handle” these co-workers over time. They might tell you, “we try to ignore them”, or “that’s just how they are”.

As any good leader would do, you decide you need to set an expectation to correct the behavior immediately and outline the consequences for failing to do so. Simple enough, right? The answer is, it should be, but what if while doing your due diligence, you find that although there is widespread knowledge that the employee(s) exhibited the behavior in question long before you inherited the team, their annual performance evaluations have historically been exemplary? As well, when you’re preparing to address the issue with the employee(s) you find they have no prior disciplinary action. Since the behavior has gone on for so long, do you still have to start at the beginning of the disciplinary process? Keeping in mind, you are well aware that this behavior, which you consider to be pretty egregious, has been going on for a long time, can you simply terminate them?

This is where the answers to those questions get tricky and frustrating. In most cases, the decision is up to you. You can likely go ahead and terminate the employee for failing to meet the stated expectation, or for violating an organizational policy outlining behavioral expectations. However, because of the circumstances you inherited, doing so would increase the risk if the organization, and/or yourself are sued. You need to be prepared to answer the following questions, if and when the employee becomes the “complainant”.

  • Have other similarly situated employees in the organization been terminated without going through the entire disciplinary process?

  • Have other employees been terminated for the same offense?

  • Are there employees in the organization who have NOT been terminated for the same offense? If so, why?

  • Since the employee had exemplary reviews in years prior, had they met the expectation in the past?

  • How did the employee become aware they were not meeting the expectation?

  • Can you prove you provided the employee ample time to make the desired change?

  • Did they exhibit ANY improvement?

  • Is there a documented history of the behavior?

These are questions you must be prepared to answer. The burden of proof is on you. It may seem overly burdensome and frustrating, but my recommendation is to start at the beginning of the normal disciplinary process, and go through it in its entirety. Otherwise, you run the risk of the perception that you treated the employee unfairly. As leaders we can inherit long-standing problems. Often times, those problems have been brushed aside for years. Although the decision to terminate or not is yours, being aware of the pitfalls you may face will help you make a well-informed decision, weigh the risks and benefits, and minimize risk to yourself and your organization.

We can help you put systems in place and train your leaders to avoid the pitfalls that may put you and your organization at risk. Reach out to us via our Techpeopleresources.com contact page, by phone, or through any of our social media platforms which can be found on our website.

​Your employees will thank you!

October Is Here;

How To Keep Scary HR Issues From Becoming Your Worst Nightmare

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denver, Colorado
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