Employee Relations Questions of the Week

Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center is emphasized

Importance of Diversity

Question:

Why is diversity so important in the workplace?

Answer:

Diversity is important in the workplace for a variety of reasons.  First, let’s take a look at the general definition of diversity in the workplace: having an organization that employs individuals whose ethnicity,  gender, background, experiences, abilities, skills, age, and opinions are varied.

So, why is this so important?  Well, according to UC Berkely in Why Diversity Matters,

There is evidence that managing a diverse work force can contribute to increased staff retention and productivity. It can enhance the organization’s responsiveness to an increasingly diverse world of customers, improve relations with the surrounding community, increase the organization’s ability to cope with change, and expand the creativity of the organization.

In a global marketplace, a company is more likely to be able to meet the needs of its customers and gain access to new markets with a diverse workforce.  Bringing in talent into the workplace whose experience or background pertains to these new markets can be an efficient solution to accessing these markets as different skills, e.g. language or understanding of cultural norms, are often required to break initial barriers to entry.

The Center for American Progress lists the Top 10 Economic Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace as the following:

  1. A diverse workforce drives economic growth.
  2. A diverse workforce can capture a greater share of the consumer market.
  3. Recruiting from a diverse pool of candidates means a more qualified workforce.
  4. A diverse and inclusive workforce helps businesses avoid employee turnover costs.
  5. Diversity fosters a more creative and innovative workforce.
  6. Businesses need to adapt to our changing nation to be competitive in the economic market.
  7. Diversity is a key aspect of entrepreneurialism.
  8. Diversity in business ownership is key to moving our economy forward.
  9. Diversity in the workplace is necessary to create a competitive economy in a globalized world.
  10. Diversity in the boardroom is needed to leverage a company’s full potential.

Finally, diversity in the workplace helps employers comply with legislation that protects individuals from discrimination.  When employers are legally compliant with these laws, the likelihood of employees pursuing legal action due to discriminatory activities by the company decreases (smallbuisness.chron.com, The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace).

 Recruitment is a critical HR function. Strategic HR, inc. knows that finding and keeping talented employees is the key to company survival. That’s why our Talent consultants utilize a variety of resources to help clients source, screen and select the best candidates and employees. Please visit our Recruitment page for more information on how we can help you effectively and efficiently find your next employee.

Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center employee relations is emphasized

Excessive Absenteeism

Question:

I have an employee with excessive absenteeism and tardiness due to her pregnancy. She has been with the company less than eight months. Per her physician’s request she has been asked to stop working and has asked us for a leave of absence for six to eight months.  The company can not afford to hold this position for such a long time. What are our legal obligations?

Answer:

Since each State has different State-specific laws, we’ll address your question from a federal perspective. You should also confirm your obligations with your respective State as they could be more restrictive.

From a federal viewpoint, you should be concerned with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Pregnancy Act. Because this employee has not been employed an entire year, she is not eligible for FMLA protection. The Pregnancy Act only requires that you provide the employee the same treatment provided others with medical disabilities. So, as long as you are treating her equal to other employees with a short-term disability, you do not need to hold her position. The real issue to be addressed is her absence not her pregnancy.

Based on the limited information you have shared, unless your State has different laws, it appears your company has no obligation to hold the position for the employee.

Do difficult situations with employees keep you awake at night? Strategic HR, inc. understands how conflicts with employees can make or break your day (or a good night’s sleep). Call us when you encounter a difficult situation – we can help coach your managers, suggest solutions or advise you on a specific problem. Learn more about our Employee Relations services by visiting our Employee Relations page.

Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center employee relations is emphasized

Just Cause Termination

Question:

Can you terminate a stock room employee for failing to find a piece of needed equipment that he could not locate in the drawer when we had six on hand? He said we didn’t have the part when in fact we did.

Answer:

In an at-will State, an employer can terminate an employee for a bad reason, a good reason, or a silly reason – as long as the reason isn’t against the law. In your situation, the employee displayed either incompetence or inattention to detail and could in fact be fired for this reason alone. The qualifier in this, or in any case of termination, is whether the employee is being discriminated against because of age, race, religion, gender or disability. Each of these factors is covered by protective labor laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Specifically, if employees who are Caucasian, for instance, are not fired for the same offense but only Black men, or Hispanic women, or people over 40 are fired there might be a case of (illegal) discrimination.

The deciding factor in a discrimination case is the answer to the question: was the employee fired for just cause (i.e., not locating a part and perhaps causing a lost customer) or fired solely because of race, color, etc.? To prove a just cause case you better be able to explain who, what, when, where, and why something occurred. Do you know why this person couldn’t find the part? Were they properly trained? Can you prove they were properly trained? Was there an investigation that can show that they knew what they were supposed to do and how to do it but just “didn’t do it”?

Bottom line – do a thorough investigation and make sure you have solid documentation. Without it any reason, or no reason, terminations are more likely to become discrimination lawsuits.

Terminations are one of the most difficult aspects of Human Resources. Even when justified it can be difficult to let someone in the workforce go. When not justified they can be a risky move for any company. Strategic HR, inc. can walk you through a termination, assist with the investigation and provide a third party objective look at each case. Visit our Employee Relations page to see how we can assist you with employment issues.

 

Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center employee relations is emphasized

Dealing With Difficult Employees

Question:

It seems like we are always hearing about a difficult employee or a complaint about a demanding manager. This can really inhibit how successful the team is working together.  Can you offer some suggestions on how to effectively deal with these difficult people?

Answer:

We all have people in our lives who are more challenging to work with than others. There is no one right way to deal with these types of people, but here are some suggestions that can be used depending on the individual circumstances:

  • Remain calm and be respectful – This may sound obvious, but it’s easier said than done; getting worked up serves no purpose. Be respectful and focus on the issue at hand. Keep emotions out of it. If the individual gets personal or derogatory, acknowledge that they are upset and redirect back to the issue at hand.
  • Empathize and get detail – For the demanding person, show them you understand what they are saying, and show you want to work with them.
  • Share your perspective – Talk about what you CAN do. Don’t make excuses, but when appropriate, let them know what possible obstacles you expect to encounter in trying to meet their request.
  • Offer Options – You may not be able to meet the demand exactly, but offer what you can do. Show how this alternative can meet their needs.
  • Escalate if needed – Request that a difficult person allow you the opportunity to resolve the problem. Realize sometimes that escalation is the best solution.
  • Preserve the relationship – Keep the big picture in mind. As easy as it may sound to swear you will never deal with that person again, that may not be realistic.
  • Self examination – Sometimes we have to ask, “Am I the problem?” Take a close look at the situation and ask “Why am I perceiving this person as difficult and demanding?” Could it be that they are just inconvenient for me?

A key underlying theme in all of these tips is solid communication and listening. Employing these skills will help get to the root of the problem. There is no one-size-fits-all method of dealing with challenging people in the workplace. Hopefully these tips can guide you to a positive outcome.

One of the most difficult aspects of human resources management is dealing with people. Are you getting inundated with complaints about managers or employees that take you away from more pressing matters? Are you looking for an on-going solution to combat these issues? Strategic HR, inc. has years of experience in employment relations. Visit our Employee Relations page to learn how we can help you resolve some of your toughest ER problems.

Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center employee relations is emphasized

Requiring Employee Contact Information

Question:

Can my company require our employees to provide their personal cell phone number and home email address?

Answer:

A  follow up question to you might be, why do you need them? If it is for emergency notifications, that is one thing, however if it is for working purposes, you would be better off providing them with a work email or cell phone. With email, it is best to make sure that any work related communications are managed in the secure environment of your company server. Also keep in mind that email or phone calls made outside of work hours to non-exempt employees count as “time worked”. Make sure you are tracking that time and paying overtime accordingly.

Today’s employees are on a constant search for work/life balance; it is a key factor in choosing an employer and, sometimes, the decision to leave. As a job requirement you could most likely require them to provide you with two ways to reach them and then suggest they provide a cell phone number and home email address; but requiring it might be a stretch. As long as they give you a way to reach them during off hours that should suffice.

Recordkeeping is one of the more mundane tasks associated with Human Resources, but is extremely important. Keeping documentation of corrective actions, counseling sessions and performance appraisals are vital to making sure you are being consistent with your disciplinary and performance policies. Strategic HR, inc. has a great online tool that’s affordable, easily downloaded and ready for immediate use. Our Coaching and Counseling toolkit has sample policies and forms to help you with your Counseling needs. Visit our Communications page to learn more.

Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center employee relations is emphasized

How to Handle an Autocratic Manager

Question:

I work for a manager who is a retired, very successful Captain of a submarine for the US Navy. There are 45 people under this manager varying in age from 21-50, and we are losing people from our team left and right due to his autocratic management style. This management style worked very well for him as a Navy Captain, but in the civilian world we don’t know what to do. What can our team do to work together and change this so that we can enjoy coming to work again?

Answer:

Military officers have a distinct “command and control” management style. In the military this type of management style is encouraged and rewarded, so the former Captain is managing in a way that’s familiar and comfortable for him.

Before the manager changes his management style, he has to see that it’s in his best interest to change. Since the old style was effective for him and he knows no other approach, he won’t even consider anything else until and unless he understands his autocratic style is not acceptable in his new environment.

It’s quite possible that this manager won’t hear any constructive criticism from anyone “under” him in the “chain of command.” He may listen to a person he considers a peer and will listen to his immediate supervisor or someone in a higher-level position. For this reason, you should have a representative of the team meet with either the manager’s boss or the top HR person. In sharing the team’s concerns, the representative must be very specific. What is the behavior that’s causing problems? What are specific examples of instances that have caused team members to be dissatisfied or disrespected? Do you know for certain that former employees resigned because of this person? Would they be willing to say this to the manager’s supervisor? Be sure to balance the criticism with areas where the manager is strong, such as his expertise or insights based on experience.

The manager would undoubtedly benefit from one-on-one coaching from a person he respects. If he is to change from his autocratic management style, he needs to have some new skills. The best coach for him would be a seasoned peer that he trusts, his supervisor, a top-level HR person within the organization, or an external consultant.

In the meantime, team members should speak up when the manager is too directive without sharing why he has issued orders or hasn’t asked for input from the team before making decisions that affect the team. Be sure to say why you’re making suggestions or asking questions, i.e. to ensure that the product or service is of excellent quality for customers, etc. Otherwise, the manager may feel that his authority is simply being questioned and this is very threatening for a person with his background and training.

Having good employee relations is key to effectively managing (and retaining) your workforce. Employees want to feel valued and may not perform up to standards, or stick around very long, if they don’t feel they are needed. Strategic HR, inc. understands the value of your workforce and having good Employee Relations. We’ve helped companies create reward and recognition programs and have coached managers on providing support and mentoring to their employees. Learn how we can help you with your employee relations needs by visiting our Employee Relations page.