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The hard truth by "Z": When employees become legal schemers

Don’t play games with manipulators

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources

Most of my employees are hard workers who keep their priorities straight. They don’t have time for distractions. They’re too busy producing results, making money and having fun.

But I’ve occasionally squared off against what I call “petty plotters.” They’re the ones who find ways to avoid their work—from threatening to sue the firm on trumped-up charges to stretching federal or state labor laws to the limit.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care if a clerk spends his entire lunch hour poring over, say, the Family and Medical Leave Act. My company complies with all the rules and regulations, and we post detailed information about such laws to educate our employees about their rights.

But I do mind if employees abuse the various laws or manipulate company policies in an attempt to get paid not to work. And it frustrates me to no end.

Reach quick closure

Sometimes employees simply push too far. One of our credit analysts, who was chronically absent with no good excuse, took all his sick days and vacation days by May. Then he wanted more time off for the summer. So he claimed he was taking FMLA leave because of “mental exhaustion.” The law states we can’t fire this person, and he knows it.

I’ve found it’s a mistake to let such situations fester. It’s better to settle them fast, before they deplete a lot of time and attention. That usually means assigning a lawyer to the case (after we try at least twice to appeal to the employee face-to-face and propose a fair, legal solution).

We had an EEOC problem in a branch office where a black woman sued us for racial discrimination. That really got my attention, considering my long-standing commitment to hire minorities and judge everyone on merit. Forty percent of our employees in that office were black (including the manager) in a community that was only about 20 percent black.

We hired a lawyer and pressed the EEOC for a rapid closure by giving them everything they needed and more. Soon afterward, they dismissed her case.

Granted, getting a lawyer involved can create an adversarial situation. And even the simplest case can drag on once the threat of litigation sets in. But when weighed against the need to assert our position strongly, so that we can get back to work, I find this risk is usually worth taking.

Isolate the duds

By pouncing on a problem right away, I make sure schemers don’t get the upper hand. That’s why I nip disputes in the bud.

If I can’t reach a quick closure, I isolate them. I supplant them with more results-oriented doers. By working around them, I make them irrelevant to the company’s production.

As long as I fully document my response to their complaints, I figure I’m on safe ground. And by giving more motivated employees a chance to advance at the expense of schemers, I turn would-be manipulators into mere hangers-on. That’s when they tend to pack up and leave.

Each month, “Z” offers insights into what it really takes to get ahead. This 20-year veteran of the corporate battlefield has climbed the ranks to head a $10 million information services company. We have agreed to protect Z’s identity in return for his promise to hold nothing back.

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