Thursday, September 20, 2018

Another HR How-Not-To Lesson

I've been focusing largely on real estate lately, so it's time to do a business management entry.  I was called in to provide some advice on this mess just last week.  The company in question has a pool of employees it brings in as needed for a certain type of work.  One employee hadn't been called in for awhile, so he called the company and was told he needed to come in to meet with them.  It then took the two bosses two weeks to get around to meeting with this guy.  At this meeting they took issue with his having missed one of the training days.  They took issue with his level of communication with them.  And they took issue with his actual work product.  Turns out, though, there were some issues with these issues.  I'll lay them out below as lessons.

Lesson One: If you are going to accuse someone of not communicating, you had better have looked at their communications.  The employee had emailed the bosses he would not be available for that training day.  The company's response was that he had responded to the wrong email, so they did not know what he meant by "I am not available the following days."

Lesson Two: If you are going to accuse someone of not asking questions to get clarification, you had better have asked some questions yourself.  The email in Lesson One was actually pretty clear.  The company never followed up on it to ask what the employee meant.  The employee was apparently supposed to figure out on his own that the company was confused.

Lesson Three: Do not treat informal communications away from the office as if they were formal communications made in the office.  The employee and one of the bosses ran into each other at the grocery store.  The employee mentioned in passing that he was going to miss one of the training days.  The boss claimed he told the employee to call the other boss about it.  The employee claimed he never heard any such thing.  The boss never followed up with an email to this effect, either to the employee or to the other boss.

Lesson Four: If you are going to accuse someone of violating a policy, there had better be a policy.  The company claimed the employee had not followed policy concerning communication.  There was no evidence such a policy existed.

Lesson Five: If you are going to accuse someone of shoddy work, you had better not have already signed off on it.  The company claimed some portion of his work was unsatisfactory.  There were in fact some items that had been returned to him for revision (I won't go into the inadequacies of the bosses' notes seeking revisions, but trust me, they weren't good.).  Those revisions had been made, and the company had accepted them.  Now the company wanted to renege on the acceptance as part of disciplining the employee.

So to recap: 1) The company was told the employee would miss the training day, but the company's communications are so pigeonholed that a clear statement sent to the RIGHT PEOPLE will be ignored and not considered to be communication; 2) the company tried to cover its lack of communication by having a boss tell the employee in a grocery store aisle that the employee needed to call, a communication the employee denies receiving and the company has no follow-up verification of having made; 3) there was no policy violation because there is no policy; and 4) work that had been acceptable was retroactively deemed unacceptable to support the current discipline.

And now the killer.

Lesson Six: If you have a problem with an employee's performance, do NOT wait for the employee to contact you to straighten it out (and do not stall for an additional two weeks after that).  Even if everything the company said were true (which it obviously was not), the employee should not have had to sit around wondering what was going on and finally call in on his own.  That is called Passive-Aggressive Management.  If it's your management style, you shouldn't be a manager, and you probably won't be for long.  If you're an owner and pulling these stunts, I guarantee you're driving away all the best people.  Soon your competition will have all the good ones (Maybe that's why Passive-Aggressive Managers congregate in government: no competitors.), and you'll be left with what's left.  And I shouldn't need to tell you where that leads.

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