Thursday, April 22, 2010

How To Stay Out of Trouble in 5 Easy Steps

Managing a business is one thing, managing people is another. Wait a minute. Aren't they one in the same? Well, yes, if you have employees. There are some entrepreneurs who have made a good living without hiring help, but that is for another discussion

For those of you who have employees, bookmark these 5 steps for staying out of trouble when it comes to the many, (some unnecessary!) labor laws:

1.) Use all available resources for communication. While there still exists some controversy over the use of communication tools such as employee handbooks, policy manuals, and job descriptions, it has been my experience that you are better off having these in place and updating them on a regular basis. These tools help you first to communicate your passion, your mission, and your ideas of where the business is heading. The tools help you to clearly explain the course of the business and the business values while explaining the culture of your business. They also communicate to the team what is expected and what is not expected as far as conduct, dress code, using the internet, etc. Use these tools to stay out of trouble.

2.) Be responsible. I've seen it over and over again. Employers get in trouble when they have the attitude that people are tools to be disposed of when they are no longer needed or if they get broken. My comment is always to "Man-up!" or woman-up if that fits. In other words, take responsibility for the person you hired. In most cases, you spent a lot of money to hire that person and letting them go without trying to salvage them is just plain bad business. From the moralistic point of view, you as another human being, in a Western culture need to show compassion for another. If the employee continues to mess up, and you've tried all that you can do, then by all means fire their fanny, but only after you've tried all that you could try to help them, nurture them, train them, feed them, whatever it takes to keep them. The bonus to this is that no court will won't to punish you for terminating someone after you've exhausted all efforts.

3.) Document everything. A good example from step #2 is that if you've tried to keep the employee and worked with that person from every possible angle, please document your efforts. Even jotting down dates and times on a Post-It Note becomes a legal document. Write down every occasion that the employee was late, did not perform well, smoked dope, whatever it was, jot it down. Your memory is not that good. Document, document, document.

4.) Don't go it alone. If you have to have a closed door meeting with an employee over a discipline situation, bring another person in with you. This helps to keep the story straight when you document the incident afterward. It also helps to avoid any accusations by the employee later on. I once terminated a female employee who began crying and stated that her husband was going to kill her. My heart went out to her. I closed the door and approached her to put my hand on her shoulder (this was really early in my career). I came to my senses, realized my mistake and immediately called in another female to assist me with the meeting. Bring someone in with you.

5.) Stay informed. There are so many new laws affecting the way employers are treated that it is difficult to stay on top of everything. Notice that I said affecting employers and not employees. That is because the laws seem to favor employees with a huge burden on the employer. You need to know about these. While your job is to do whatever your business creates, produces, and provides, you still need to keep abreast of laws that affect the outcome of how you handle employee situations. There are great resources available online or you can simply sign up for my monthly e-newsletter at

1 comment:

Outsourcing Guide said...

This is a perfect guide. Thank you for sharing this informative article.

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