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Newly promoted boss not working out?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Not every employee is cut out for management. Someone who was a true asset as a skilled worker may be a bust after being promoted. If that happens in your organization, exercise patience before terminating.

Make sure she has the support and training she needs, and was afforded every opportunity to succeed. That way, if she fails, you can terminate her, knowing no court will second-guess your decision.

Recent case: Angela, who is black, was born in Nigeria and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. She earned a pharmacy degree and went to work for Rite Aid drug stores as a pharmacist. She proved to be a capable employee, and her supervisor recommended her for a promotion to manager, supervising more than a dozen pharmacists at several Rite Aid stores.

Co-workers, subordinates and her new boss said Angela began having problems in her new role right away. For example, she prepared a proposal to hire several new pharmacists for her territory even though that wasn’t in the budget or even feasible. Then she complained that she couldn’t adequately schedule pharmacists without the additional help. Other managers in similar districts were able to do so.

Angela also turned out to have a temper when dealing with subordinates, co-workers and her supervisor. Among many shouting matches, one stood out. While sharing a hotel room with another pharmacist while they attended a trade show, Angela asked the woman to join her in prayer. What began as a private disagreement soon spilled over into a very public argument on the tradeshow floor.

Finally, headquarters discovered that a special customer comment line was getting an unusual number of calls from Angela’s district. Favorable comments from Rite Aid customers can help employees earn bigger bo­­nuses. The chain launched an investigation, setting up surveillance at one of Angela’s pharmacies. Investigators noted that cashiers were retaining sales receipts.

When questioned, several employees said they used the receipts to call the comment line. They said Angela had urged them to “do what it takes” to get customer praise numbers up.

Angela was called in to discuss the matter. Instead of listening to what Rite Aid considered constructive criticism, she became defensive and angry. Rite Aid first suspended her with pay, but eventually terminated her for poor management.

She sued, alleging the real reason she was fired was her race and national origin.

The court looked carefully at every­­thing Rite Aid did, from before Angela’s promotion through her brief management career. Based on ample documentation showing she wasn’t performing well as a manager, the court concluded Rite Aid acted reasonably and within its rights. It tossed out the case. (Ekhato v. Rite Aid, No. 10-CV-2564, ED PA, 2012)

Final note: Employees who are terminated after receiving a sought-after promotion face an uphill battle if they sue for discrimination. After all, it makes no sense for an employer to promote someone who obviously belongs to a protected class and then turn around and fire her because of that protected characteristic.

So go ahead—give that employee a chance, knowing you can undo the damage if it doesn’t work out.

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