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Inheriting staff? Setting higher standards is perfectly legal

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

If you’re part of a new management team bent on improving overall performance, don’t let lawsuit fears keep you from imposing higher standards on inherited staff.

You can (and should) institute new rules and expectations. That’s true even if the old management team never gave employees performance evaluations or noted their deficiencies. Just make sure you apply those new standards evenly across the board.

Recent case: James Cressman, age 73, worked for Associated Rubber for more than 30 years before a new company president fired him for incompetence. He sued for age discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Cressman argued that he never received a performance evaluation or any warning that his work was substandard. But the new leaders at Associated Rubber said they set higher expectations that Cressman couldn’t or wouldn’t meet, including learning a new computer system and training employees.

The Commonwealth Court dismissed the case, saying age had nothing to do with the decision to fire him. The company had clear and reasonable justification to do so. (Associated Rubber v. PHRC, No. 2045 CD 2004, Commonwealth Court, 2007)

Final tip: When you’re the new management team on the block, act quickly to fix old problems. But do so openly and give employees advance notice of the new expectations. Create new job descriptions and write clear goals.  

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