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Can’t persuade them? Educate them

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “A few months ago, I became the first human resources director at a private club. Most of the members are men, and I am the only woman on the management team. Given some of the things that have occurred here in the past, it’s amazing that no lawsuits have been filed.

“I am doing my best to turn things around, but have run into difficulties with several of my male colleagues. They are accustomed to doing whatever they please, so when I try to give them sound legal advice, they take it personally and challenge my reasoning.

“I have had some serious run-ins with these guys. Even though I am legally correct, they obviously resent my authority and have begun making snide remarks about me and my department.

“The person who hired me was fired shortly after I started work, and we now have a new general manager. I would like to alert him to what’s going on, but I don’t want to seem like a tattletale.” Fed Up

A: A conversation with your new boss is definitely in order, because without his support, you are fighting a losing battle. Even with the law on your side, you’ll need the backing of upper management to enforce any policy changes.

To avoid sounding whiny, however, you must de-personalize this disagreement. It’s not about you versus the guys or HR versus other departments. It’s about what’s best for the business. So instead of ratting out your spiteful colleagues, propose a plan for educating them.

For example: “After conducting a policy audit, I found several areas where the club is highly vulnerable to discrimination charges and lawsuits. Since our managers are not familiar with employment law, they are unwilling to change these long-standing practices. I would like to bring in an attorney to provide them with some legal training.”

If your boss also lacks legal knowledge, help him grasp the gravity of the situation by describing the penalties imposed on other careless companies. When you want to capture management’s attention, a dramatic true story is often the most effective strategy.

When you take a complaint to management, you need to do it in the right way. Here's a useful road map to follow: How to Complain to Your Boss.

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