Workplace in turmoil? Here’s how to know where to start cleaning house

Sometimes, a handful of bitter employees can poison the workplace atmosphere so much that production falls. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to figure out who’s to blame.

Here’s one way that sometimes works: Conduct a thorough assessment of the workplace by interviewing all the employees. What you learn may surprise you and provide the impetus to make some sorely needed changes—including firing employees who are more trouble than they’re worth.

Bonus: Courts are unlikely to fault your methods.

Recent case: When Procter & Gamble’s upper management began getting complaints that interpersonal problems at one of its detergent plants were making life miserable for some employees, the company launched an investigation.

When managers interviewed employees, what they found was alarming—and a red flag for legal problems down the line.

Tough Talks D

Six employees singled out Dennis Badertscher as someone whom they thought was engaging in inappropriate behavior toward a female employee. Five employees accused Badertscher of not wearing protective equipment. Five more said they had seen him sleeping on the job. Procter & Gamble fired Badertscher for sexual harassment, violating safety rules and sleeping on the job.

He sued, alleging he had really been fired because he was over age 50.

The court didn’t buy it, concluding that he couldn’t show that the company’s stated reasons were a pretext for age discrimination. (Badertscher v. Procter & Gamble, No. 09-4486, 6th Cir., 2011)