California Harassment Training Deadline Extended

California has passed an emergency bill to extend the deadline for the first round of sexual harassment training by one year. Previously, employers with five or more employees were required to provide interactive sexual harassment prevention training to all employees in California by January 1, 2020; the deadline is now January 1, 2021.

The substantive requirements remain the same. Employers must provide:

  • At least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees
  • At least one hour of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all nonsupervisory employees 
  • “Refresher training” every two years thereafter
  • The applicable training within six months of hire for new employees or within six months of entering a supervisory position 

Employers who provide training that complies with the law in 2019 do not need to do so again until two years have passed from the date of training. For instance, if you trained all employees on July 14, 2019 (good work!), you would have until July 14, 2021, to retrain those same employees. However, if you hire new employees or promote any existing employees to supervisory positions, they need to receive the applicable training by January 1, 2021.

A Catch: Seasonal and Temporary Employees 
The training timeline was not changed for seasonal and temporary employees. Beginning January 1, 2020, employers must provide training for seasonal and temporary employees, as well as any employee who is hired to work for less than six months, within 30 calendar days of hire or within their first 100 hours worked, whichever comes first. Temporary services employers are responsible for training their employees.

Think of it this way: California wants everyone who holds a job in 2020 to be trained by Jan 1, 2021. To achieve that, the state needs to maintain the previous training timeline for seasonal and temporary employees; otherwise, someone who works only in the summer, or between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, may not receive training by the deadline.

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

Many Managers Are Uncomfortable Communicating with Their Employees – Here’s How You Can Help Them

Here’s a startling statistic: Nearly 70% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their employees. That number comes from a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Interact, and it indicates that managers may at times shy away from doing basic management duties.

If uncomfortable managers avoid giving feedback, offering praise, showing vulnerability, providing direction, or communicating in general, they’re not helping the bottom line. Poor employee performances will go unaddressed. Star performers won’t feel recognized. Employees may distrust their managers and not admit mistakes. Efficiency and productivity won’t be a good as they could be, and that’s money down the drain.

While some managers might do better in non-management positions, others need only a little training, practice, and experience to overcome their discomfort. Here are a few ways you can develop new managers and improve the performances of existing ones:

Best Practices Before Promoting Someone to Management

  • Identify potential managers based not just on individual performance, but the likelihood of success when putting in charge of a team. Management requires a specific skill set—the ability to lead, to take decisive action, to facilitate compromise, to defuse escalation, to assess performance with clarity and kindness. When considering whom to promote to management, look especially for those employees who exhibit these skills or show signs that they have the potential to develop them.
  • If you see employees with the potential for leadership, give them informal leadership duties and see how well or poorly they do. Some discomfort on their part is expected, so don’t rule out someone just because they’re not fully comfortable the moment they’re asked to lead something. That said, if their feelings of discomfort persist as they’re given more informal leadership responsibilities, they’re likely not well suited to a formal leadership position—at least not yet.
  • Provide relevant skills training. If you identify an employee with a strong potential for leadership in the organization, prepare them to take the role by teaching them the skills they’ll need to be successful. Consider paying for them to attend workshops or conferences. A mentorship program could also be helpful if you have good managers to help onboard new managers.

Best Practices with Current Managers

  • Provide skills training in needed areas. It’s possible that a manager may be uncomfortable communicating with employees because they’ve never really been taught how to do it. If that’s the case for any of your managers, teach them the communication skills they’re lacking. Coach your managers and give them time to practice their managerial skills. When they become more competent, they’ll feel more confident.   
  • Manage your managers. Like any employee, managers need direction, guidance, and someone to hold them accountable. Do for them what they do for their subordinates.  
  • If a manager’s performance is having negative impacts on the company and guidance and training do not help, you may need to look at putting them on a performance improvement plan. This plan should have clear, attainable goals and a set timeframe for completion. If they improve, great, but if not, then it may be time for the next step.
  • If the performance improvement plan doesn’t result in improved performance, it may be time to move the employee out of management. Employees who excelled as individual contributors may not do well in management, and that’s okay. They may be happier going back to what they were doing before if that’s an option.

Management isn’t easy, and some of its duties will be uncomfortable no matter what. That said, the best managers don’t try to avoid unpleasant conversations when those conversations are needed. Because they’re generally comfortable with their managerial responsibilities, they’re able to face the more challenging moments with more confidence and conviction. And that helps your bottom line.

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

Five Reasons to Rehire Former Employees

It’s not uncommon for organizations to have a policy against rehiring former employees. This sort of policy makes perfect sense with respect to troublemakers, poor performers, or others who left under a dark cloud. It’s also understandable given that companies invest a lot of money training and developing their people, and employees who go elsewhere take that investment with them, sometimes to a competitor.

But times have changed, and expectations with them. Few employers these days expect employees to stick around for many years. Most know that employees will move between employers multiple times over the course of their career and that many of them will even change careers entirely, some more than once.

It’s not that workers today are disloyal or uncommitted. The culture of the overall job market has redefined expectations around these concepts. A loyal, committed employee isn’t likely to reveal trade secrets to a competitor or publicly badmouth their employer, but they may intend to further their career with a different company at some point in the not-so-distant future. Loyalty and commitment have more to do with what the employee is doing for their employer presently—not what they will be doing for them indefinitely. 

While the overall culture of employment has changed, individual organizations have updated their own culture to align with these new expectations. Not only are companies allowing eligible former employees to apply, but some employers are also even encouraging it! Here are five big reasons why you might consider doing the same:

  • Former employees already know your organization. They’re familiar with the operating procedures, the rules, and traditions of your culture, and the people with whom they worked previously. Consequently, it takes less time for them to be acclimated to the work environment. You can usually onboard them more easily and train them more quickly, filling the position at a fraction of the cost.
  • Oftentimes, former employees return with additional knowledge, skills, and abilities. Sure, they took your investment in them to another workplace, but they’re coming back to you with other employer’s investments in them, which can now be leveraged at your organization. 
  • Communicating that you welcome back former employers highlights the fact that people like working for you and see your organization as the place they’d like to be, even if they have other options. 
  • It creates trust. Prospective candidates and current employees understand that you don’t see them as a potential threat to the organization that needs to be deterred from leaving. Instead, you show them that you trust them and that your interest in their lives and careers extends beyond the time they work for you. That reciprocal trust makes the employment relationship much more productive, rewarding, and enjoyable.
  • Your competitors are likely open to rehiring their high performing former employees, and if you’re competing with them for workers, you don’t want to unnecessarily limit your pool of strong candidates. That just puts you at a disadvantage. 

Even with these five benefits, a former employee may not be the best candidate for the position. In some cases, what a new employee brings to the table outweighs what the former employee offers, and the new employee is clearly the better bet. In other cases, however, the former employee is the smart hire, and ruling them out because they once quit would be a mistake. Boomerang employees may not always be worth rehiring, but they’re often worth considering.

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

Seven SHRM 2019 Takeaways for Small and Midsized Businesses

Nearly 20,000 HR professionals attended this year’s annual SHRM conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. If that sounds like a packed convention center, it was! 

The theme for the conference was “Creating Better Workplaces.” The sessions themselves covered a range of topics across the HR landscape. A lot of important work is being done to improve HR departments and workplaces around the world. People are eager to share their ideas and learn from those around them. 

Here are seven big themes we noticed:

  1. Employers are facing exponential changes in technology, and many of them are underusing the technology they have. Technology can free up a lot of HR’s time for other meaningful activities and enable employers to stand above the crowd, but only if it’s used effectively. Organizations that don’t adapt to technological changes risk wasting valuable resources and spending significantly more money on tasks that their competitors do on the cheap.  
  2. Distrust and drama are a death sentence to collaboration and communication and will cause innovation and creativity to dry up. Fortunately for businesses of all sizes, you don’t need a huge budget or costly program to counter distrust and drama in the workplace. In their respective sessions, Cy Wakeman and Sarah Noll Wilson each showed attendees how self-reflection, shared accountability and setting others up for success alleviate the stressors that bring us down, cause us to distrust one another, and clog up our day with unnecessary drama. People are the hardest part of work, Brené Brown noted in her keynote, but people are all we have. 
  3. Employees, especially younger ones, expect more from their employers. They want to work for mission-driven people who understand their needs and the needs of society. In fact, they expect business leaders to help right the wrongs in society and take a public stand against problems like pay inequality, extreme poverty, and unconscious bias. For these employees, compliance isn’t enough. 
  4. Expectations are also changing for managers, who are more and more expected to be attentive. The best managers today understand human psychology. They’re able to read emotional cues and spot signs of stress. And they have the people skills to help employees navigate strong emotions and uncertain situations. 
  5. Multiple speakers recommended that HR and Marketing departments should work together to improve their company’s employer brand—the image that prospective employees have of the company. Every employer has a brand. It’s the internal culture of the organization as seen from outside the organization. Job postings, social media activity, and online employee reviews each shape the employer brand, and that brand play a big role in every organization’s recruitment efforts. 
  6. Sexual harassment prevention efforts took on greater urgency following the #MeToo movement, and now companies are looking to improve and expand their harassment prevention efforts to combat other forms of unwelcome conduct that’s based on a protected class. 
  7. There’s an exciting, collaborative spirit in the HR world. You could feel it in the sessions, witness it in the hallway conversations, see it on full display in the expo hall, and follow it in all the social media discussions. Recruiters, specialists, generalists, directors, and other HR professionals want to connect, learn, and grow together. 

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

In 2018, over 13,000 sex-based harassment claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This number doesn’t include charges filed with state and local agencies or situations where employees went directly to an attorney. And many employees who are victims of sexual harassment or are affected by it never report the incidents at all.

Victims and witnesses of harassment often refrain from reporting because the harasser has the power to retaliate or because the organization has not set up adequate channels for reporting. In other cases, victims report the harassment, but nothing is done about it. The harassment is excused, and the complaints are rebuffed. Word gets around that the organization tolerates harassment, and people stop bothering to report it. They either keep quiet, file charges with a governmental agency, or call an attorney.

None of these outcomes is good for employers or for the people they employ. If the case ends up in court, harassment can cost employers hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more!), especially if harassment is pervasive in the company culture. And when harassment continues unabated, victims suffer physically and psychologically and often see their careers take a wrong turn.

It goes without saying that the workplace should be a safe and secure place, and it’s the employer’s responsibility to make it that way. No one can prevent all harassment from happening, but employers can and should do everything in their power to prevent harassment and appropriately respond when it occurs. This starts by having a solid harassment policy and complaint procedure that all employees can easily understand and access. Employers should establish multiple options for reporting, and ensure that they investigate allegations promptly and thoroughly, taking appropriate steps to discipline harassers.

Training employees on what constitutes harassment and how to respond to it is also recommended – while written policies and procedures are essential, employees will have a deeper understanding if they are offered the information in other formats as well, such as live training with visuals, examples, and time for questions and answers.

The EEOC recommends these additional preventive measures:

  • Make an organizational commitment to diversity, inclusion, and respect—and establish policies and procedures to hold people accountable to that commitment.
  • Empower those who are responsible for responding to allegations of harassment and preventing harassment from occurring.
  • Establish a sense of urgency and seriousness about prevention by spending appropriate amounts of time and money on training or other prevention and response activities.
  • Survey employees on whether they’re currently being harassed or know of harassment taking place.
  • Avoid rewarding managers for minimum complaints on their team, as doing so could incentivize the suppression of reporting.
  • Protect people from retaliation.
  • Assess risk factors.
  • Assess preventative measures already in place to ensure they are effective.
  • Clarify what behavior is prohibited.
  • Use discipline proportional to the offense (sexual assault and an offhand remark shouldn’t necessarily have the same consequence).

For any of these measures to work, employees need to know that if they report harassment, their report will be taken seriously, they’ll be protected from retaliation, and the harassment will stop. In short, they need to trust their employer. Consequently, anything an employer does to foster distrust will make anti-harassment measures much less effective. When it comes to preventing harassment, employers cannot say one thing and do another. Honesty and accountability are key. Trust can take time to build, but it can be lost in a moment.

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

The Three Ways HR Makes Employment More Profitable

HR covers a lot of territory—much of it cluttered with paperwork—but it really does have a precise business purpose. The point of HR is to make employment more profitable. HR does this in three fundamental ways. First, HR protects the organization against employment-related lawsuits and fines. Second, it reduces the costs of employment. And third, it maximizes employee productivity. In short, HR helps the employer save money and make money in all things related to employment.  

Protection from Lawsuits and Fines 
Nothing can prevent an employer from being sued, but good HR can substantially reduce the risk of lawsuits and other costly consequences of non-compliance by ensuring that the organization follows federal, state, and municipal legal requirements.  

The government has multiple agencies tasked with investigating violations and administering fines. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates discrimination claims. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration looks into workplace hazards and safety violations. The IRS and Department of Labor may ask to see your books. And the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services might audit your I-9s.  

The penalties for violations can range from amounts that are mildly inconvenient to those that are financially devastating, so you don’t want to leave these areas to chance or hope you stay under the radar. Employing people comes with risk, and it’s an HR job to manage and reduce that risk.

Reduction of Employment Costs
Competitive wages and benefits, office perks, and first-rate technology can help you find and keep great workers, and they can help you improve your products, boost your sales, and grow the business. But there are also employment costs HR can help cut. Hiring and recruitment processes can be streamlined and assessed for inefficiencies. Turnover costs can be reduced by improving your onboarding process, communications, and engagement efforts. Inefficiencies can be resolved through performance management and discipline. And offering some form of Paid Time Off can enable sick employees to stay home and rest so they don’t come to work sick, spread their germs, and reduce the productivity of the office even more than if they’d stayed home. 

Increased Employee Productivity  
In addition to preventing and reducing costs related to employment, HR can also help the organization increase its revenue by encouraging and helping employees to be more collaborative, innovative, creative, knowledgeable, skilled, and just plain better at their jobs. Coaching, training, skill development, career advancement, outside education, and culture advancements are tried-and-true productivity-building methods. They also have the added perk of directly benefiting your employees.  

When HR works on maximizing productivity, it’s able to serve the interests of both the employer and employees in ways that are visible and appreciated by all parties. Employers bring in more revenue, employees develop professionally, and customers get better service. Everybody’s happy. 

Good for Business 
The business case is the case for HR. Ignoring HR or neglecting its responsibilities puts the organization at greater risk, wastes money on subpar and inefficient operations, and hinders employers and employees from reaching their full potential. Investing in HR reduces risk, eliminates inefficiencies, and improves productivity. Whether you’re a business owner, office manager, the HR department of one, or on a team of HR practitioners, spending time on HR bolsters everyone’s success. 

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

The Advantages of Skill-Based Training

Often, when employers hear about on-the-job training, the training pertains either to general knowledge or to policies and procedures that are unique to the company. Skill-based training is somewhat different—it focuses on how to do something specific and results in a learned skill that can be put to immediate use. Here are some examples of skill-based training: 

  • Mastering advanced welding techniques 
  • Setting up and using Excel pivot tables 
  • Keeping your cool during a hostile phone conversation 
  • Writing concise emails 
  • Coding in Ruby  

Skill-based training is beneficial for most companies, but since good courses are often (but not always!) an investment, HR professionals should focus on where they can maximize value. Two types of employees come to mind as the best candidates: those who want to succeed but are struggling to meet expectations, and top performers who you feel maybe a flight risk.

For the strugglers, you must first find out what they need to learn to reach their potential. Are they spending way too much time trying to figure out Excel on their own? Are they a new manager that doesn’t know how to coach? Giving these people access to skill-based training could make a huge difference in both their efficiency and happiness—as well as your bottom line.  

The high achievers, on the other hand, should be asked what they want to learn. It’s likely they’ve already thought about the next steps at your organization and in what new ways they could contribute. Give them a chance to shine! Your investment in their future won’t go unnoticed; employees who receive training are more likely to be engaged and less likely to leave.

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

Conflict Resolution Strategies

The recipe for workplace conflict is decidedly simple: bring two or more people together and assign them a task. Unless the stars have aligned in your favor, there’s going to be some cause for disagreement between them, and if conflict ensues, their ability to cooperate will suffer.

Regrettably, too often employers tolerate unresolved conflict because it isn’t a legal matter with potential fines, they’re busy with other things, they don’t know how to manage it, or because doing so is sure to be uncomfortable. But unresolved conflict is one of the most dangerous threats to an organization because it prevents people from collaborating and working efficiently, and successful teamwork is essential to your bottom line. 

Causes of Conflict
Before we examine strategies for resolving conflict in the workplace, let’s look at the common underlying causes of that conflict. Understanding how conflicts arise will help you determine which strategy to use.

  • Miscommunication: Often conflict between people is more perceived than real—a result of a misunderstanding or miscommunication. A speaker is unclear, or a listener takes a statement the wrong way. Offense or frustration is caused not because of real disagreement, but because of a perception. 
  • Incompatible positions or priorities: Conflicts often arise because two or more individuals (or teams) can’t all get what they want. Their ideas about what to do or how to do it can’t all be done together. Maybe a deadline that one person requires can’t be met without someone else having to rearrange their priorities, and maybe those priorities can’t easily be rearranged. 
  • Emotional manipulation: Some people try to get what they want by manipulating the emotions of others. A regularly tardy employee might have a go-to sob story about their situation, which they use to garner sympathy. But once emotional manipulation is revealed for what it is, it breeds distrust, and people who distrust one another can’t work well together.  
  • Internal competition: Competition can be healthy and good within an organization, but it can also incentivize people to play dirty, undermining or sabotaging the efforts of others. Like emotional manipulation, competition can create distrust. People stop collaborating, communicating, and sharing their work. 
  • Poor performance: In some cases, issues develop between people in the workplace because an individual or a team isn’t getting their job done or doing it well. One person’s poor performance can be like the first in a line of dominos, leading to a chain reaction that eventually topples the whole operation. Distrust, resentment, anger, and other negative emotions are the result, and these feelings most certainly find expression—to friends at work in the form of gossip and often the offending party as a public scolding. 

Solutions

  • Build a platform for collaboration: Before people can resolve their differences, they often need to find an area of shared interest, so they have some common ground to build on. That might be an important project or quarterly earnings goal that can be used as a point of focus. If nothing else, help your employees see that everyone wants the organization to succeed in its mission. They may be more willing to compromise or give alternative ideas a try if they know everyone is truly working for the same purpose.
  • Address behavioral and performance problems: These issues should be addressed whether they’re causing conflicts or not, but especially if they’re creating office drama. Tolerating behavioral and performance problems, especially when they affect the work of your good performers, will only hasten your most talented employees out the door.
  • Teach people how to communicate clearly and effectively: Communication is a skill, and not everyone is good at it. Being able to communicate well takes more than an understanding of grammar and syntax. It also takes empathy, candor, an ability to read people and anticipate how they might perceive and react to what’s communicated. Perhaps most importantly, good communication skills require the ability to listen. If an employee doesn’t have these skills, then you need to teach them (or find someone who can). Your employees will be much more adept at working through conflicts if they know how to communicate.
  • Practice conflict resolution techniques: There’s no better way to develop and maintain skills than to practice them. Set aside time at a company offsite or team meeting to role-play different conflicts; you can call this “working through scenarios” if you think your team will bristle at the thought of acting. These practice sessions will give your employees an opportunity to work creatively through impasses without stress and frustration—and without hindering their work. They can then apply these skills to the real-life conflicts that will inevitably arise.  

In some cases, conflicting parties will not be able to resolve their differences, and no resolution will please them. That’s life. You don’t always get your way. And while you can’t—and shouldn’t—try to regulate people’s feelings, you can and should set high standards for professional behavior. But part of setting and enforcing those high standards will involve managers and HR professionals stepping in, setting the scene for conflict resolution, and accepting that the resolution might not always be comfortable. It will, however, make the organization stronger. 

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

What You Need to Know Before Disciplining or Terminating an Employee

The prospect of corrective action or termination makes a lot of managers nervous. That’s understandable. For employees, being disciplined or losing their job can be anything from moderately embarrassing to financially devastating, but it’s rarely a happy occasion. For the employers, these actions always come with some risk, and there are plenty of legal danger zones an employer can end up in if corrective action isn’t done properly.

Here are some tips from our HR Pros to help you avoid these pitfalls and make corrective action productive for everyone: 

  1. Everyone in the organization, but especially those responsible for disciplining or terminating employees, should understand exactly what the organization’s policies are. When policies aren’t clear or people don’t understand them, their enforcement can become inconsistent and subject to bias. In these circumstances, discipline and termination will appear unfair. Worse, they may open the organization up to costly discrimination claims.  
  2. Managers should follow consistent disciplinary practices. Management meetings are a good time for the leadership team to make sure they’re using the same practices for discipline and termination. Inconsistencies in the organization, as noted above, can lead to allegations of discrimination. 
  3. Investigate allegations before you act on them. Sometimes, in a rush to correct wrongdoing or poor performance, a manager will discipline an employee after hearing only one side of the story. For example, a restaurant customer complains about rude service, and the server is immediately terminated and given no chance to explain what happened from their point of view. Such adverse actions tell employees they can be penalized even if they do nothing wrong, causing them to feel resentment, fear, and distrust. And the manager can find themselves in an awkward termination meeting if the terminated employee can prove then and there that they didn’t do what they were accused of doing.
  4. Written warnings are best drafted by the manager and reviewed by HR. An employee’s manager often has firsthand knowledge of an infraction or unacceptable performance, so they’re in the best position to draft the written warning. HR can collaborate with the manager by reviewing the warning, ensuring that it is factual, unemotional, thorough, clear, tied to company policy, and consistent with how others have been given written warnings previously.
  5. Corrective action is best done by the employee’s direct manager. When corrective action is delivered by the manager, it tells the employee that the manager is invested in the employee’s success and is willing to help the employee improve. Leaving corrective action to HR tells employees that they’re “someone else’s problem” and that their manager may not be fully vested in the company’s policies and practices. It also creates an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between employees and HR, which can undermine HR’s ability to make positive, company-wide changes.
  6. During a disciplinary meeting, a witness can help document what was said and done as well as provide logistical details. Not every disciplinary meeting needs a witness, though, especially if the issue is a minor one, or it’s the first conversation about performance issues. In these cases, whether to have a witness present can be left to each manager’s discretion. A witness is more useful for a meeting that is likely to escalate, either due to the nature of the issue or discipline, or the temper of the employee.
  7. Fairness and courtesy can go a long way, even when termination is necessary. No termination meeting will be pleasant, but they’re often more unpleasant than they need to be. Good practices here include being honest and clear about the reason for termination; not relying on being an “at-will” employer to avoid telling the employee why they’re being let go (they’ll generally assume the worst), and holding the meeting privately and at the end of the day so that the employee can clean out their desk and exit the workplace without an audience. Whatever a manager can do to help the employee leave with their dignity intact will be helpful in preventing future issues with the now-former employee.
  8. Discipline and termination can be in the employee’s best interest—allowing bad behavior and poor performance to go on unaddressed do them no favors. If an employee isn’t doing a good job and is unable or unwilling to improve, they’re not helping the employer, their teammates, or themselves by staying in the organization. Chances are good that they’d be more successful and happier doing something else for someone else. And that’s okay!

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.

When Employment Is Impersonal, Courtesy Goes Out the Door

In December 2018, The Washington Post reported on an odd, eyebrow-raising phenomenon in the working world: employees are “ghosting” their employers. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, ghosting is an unfortunately common practice in the dating scene. It occurs when someone breaks off a relationship without warning or notice and then ceases all communication. In the business scene, it’s a catchier, hipper name for job abandonment. Instead of giving the courtesy of a two-week notice—or any notice for that matter—employees just vanish without a word, silently moving on to their next endeavor.

These employees feel comfortable abandoning their jobs because they believe ghosting their employers won’t come back to haunt them. And they may be right. With the unemployment rate being remarkably low and the demand for skills remarkably high, workers often have the upper hand, so much so there’s sometimes little incentive for them to depart cordially. They’re not worried about a bad reference, and it’s nothing to them if their former employer now scrambles to find coverage. 

While ghosting is one way that employees quit their jobs, another is when a worker takes pains to publicize their disapproval, usually online, enumerating grievance after grievance to any interested parties. Would-be employees—arguably the most interested party—only need to search a prospective employer’s name on the internet to see what the current and former employees have to say about its working conditions. 

Even if most employees still leave their jobs with adequate notice and common courtesy, the fact is that workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers. With so many workers jumping from job to job—eager for better compensation, career growth, improved cultural fit, or just something different—and with the demand for work greater than the supply of unemployed workers, employers are searching for effective ways to keep talented people in their organizations and encourage positive brand messaging from their employees.

The Upside and Downside of the Employment Relationship
As we discussed in September, the best way for employers to attract and retain happy, hard-working people is to be useful to their employees, providing things such as skill and career development, coaching, meaningful work, praise and appreciation, community, and monetary rewards for organizational success (see the article linked below to learn more). These benefits are important because the employment relationship is fundamentally about usefulness. The more useful an employer can be to its employees, the more it can satisfy their wants and needs, the stronger the incentive will be for employees to stay. 

But this basis of the employment relationship is also why employers and employees don’t always get along. And it is why some employees vanish without a word or—worse—with a diatribe against their employer. When people have personal connections, they’re motivated to work through their conflicting interests with respect, care, and a willingness to compromise. But if their relationship is about nothing but utility, if the other’s momentary usefulness is all that matters, then there’s no incentive to be courteous and understanding when conflicts arise or when one party ceases to be of use. The relationship can be discarded as you would discard a dead battery, bent key, or some other now-useless thing.

What’s more, some employees are going to leave no matter what an employer can offer. If retaining employees isn’t always possible, employers can still endeavor to make the departures smooth and cordial so as to minimize turnover expenses and encourage former employees to speak well of the organization.

The Role of HR 
When retaining employees isn’t possible or desirable, HR still has an important role. Here are a few ways to respectfully say “goodbye” when the time comes:

  1. Address poor employee performance early. When an employee isn’t getting their job done or otherwise meeting expectations, the easy answer is often to terminate their employment. However, immediate termination, particularly with no warning or attempts by the employer to correct the performance, sends the employee away with a chip on their shoulder and leaves the employer without adequate coverage. If the employee is feeling particularly retaliatory, they may launch into a public tirade online or file an unlawful termination claim. As an alternative to immediate termination, you can put the employee on a performance improvement plan. If successful, it would further both your interests and the employee’s; and, if not, it would at least show a good faith attempt to give the employee a chance to improve, reducing liability if termination becomes necessary.
  2. Solicit employee feedback. As you may know, most employees in the United States are either unengaged or actively disengaged. Disengaged employees are more likely to complain about their jobs or their bosses or other work-related matters, but probably not to their employers. Some of their complaints might be legitimate and worth addressing, but if they’re only talking to each other or to people outside the company, employers can’t do anything to resolve the specific problems, and the negativity only begets more negativity. The solution: collaborate with employees to identify and address problems in the workplace. You can solicit direct feedback through surveys, stay interviews, exit interviews, and regular check-ins between managers and subordinates. Employees will only be willing to share the concerns, however, if they believe it’s safe to do so and they trust that their employer will at least attempt, in good faith, to address their concerns.
  3. Say goodbye with style. It can be sad, and an extra challenge, when good employees take jobs elsewhere. But it can also be a cause for celebration, and both the departing and remaining employees will appreciate a nice send-off, even if it’s just through a company-wide email. When you celebrate the bittersweet successes of your employees, you show you really care about their professional development and them as individuals. They move on with goodwill and with a good impression of their time at your organization.

It’s wonderful if employers can motivate good employees to stay with their organization, but that’s not always realistic. Since some employees—both the good and not-so-good performers—will inevitably leave the organization, it serves the interest of employers to make these terminations as smooth and respectful as possible. That reduces the chances of disengaged employees ghosting their employers or loudly announcing their displeasure to prospective customers, to job candidates, or to anyone else who will listen.

Patrick K. Collard, MHR is the Managing Member of trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has 28-years of experience as a human resources consultant and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Patrick may be contacted at 1(888) 462-2251 or patrick@trustHR.com and on social media: @askTrustHR.