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Document deficiencies, don’t fret over false accusations

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

Some employees—confronted with their own shortcomings—insist on deflecting blame. When managers point out performance or attitude problems, they’re quick to point the finger elsewhere. Perhaps they try to argue that so-and-so—who doesn’t belong to the same protected class—always gets away with the same poor work and conduct that they’re being criticized for.

If you truly believe there is no merit to such an employee’s allegations (other than the desire to take the focus off herself), you probably don’t need to sweat it. Those hollow discrimination charges probably won’t stick. You have little to worry about if you take the time and trouble to document the employee’s lousy work.

Recent case: When she got a poor performance review, Augusta Malacarne alleged that she had been discriminated against because of her sex. The appraisal accused her of insubordination—and included examples. For instance, it said Malacarne sent her male boss an e-mail stating he was an incompetent “outrage.” Later, Malacarne likened his management style to the castaway children who ruled in Lord of the Flies.

Malacarne fought right back with allegations that fellow employees were mismanaging funds. The employer investigated, but found no wrongdoing. It stuck with its assessment of Malacarne’s poor performance.

Malacarne sued, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said she had no case. It was clear that the employer had ample reason to discipline her, and that she had no proof to back up her own allegations. (Malacarne v. City University of New York, et al., No. 07-0613, 2nd Cir., 2008) 

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