The legality of dealing with problem employees
One of the more interesting speakers I’ve heard in some time was Pamela Krivda, who recently spoke at NAHAD Annual Meeting & Convention in Las Vegas. She’s an HR legal expert and she presented the audience — many of whom were smaller, family-type hose distributors (along with some larger manufacturers) — with tips to better deal with problem employees. Here are five of her suggestions.
1 Don’t be afraid to suspend people with pay. Krivda said that she doesn’t use it as her first option; this would be after a verbal warning and then a written warning. “Then you’re going tell the employee, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. I want to know what you really think about your job here. Do you want this job or not? Now, if you want the job, you have to have it under the same terms and conditions as everybody else. You don’t get anything special. You have to take it under these same terms and conditions,’” she said. Krivda said that the employee should then sign a form acknowledging that they want their job. That the employee acknowledges and accepts his/her responsibility. Their job description should also be attached to it — if you don’t have one, now is the time to write one up. Tell them you want them to go home for a couple of days and think over if they want the job or not. If they want the job it’s here, but they have to change their attitude. If they don’t want the job, tell them you will either figure out something or give them a little bit of time to find another job or just release them with no hard feelings.
2 Demotion or reassignment is not a good idea. Do not repurpose a problem; all you’ve done is take your headache and moved it to another supervisor. Then, that supervisor will need two years’ time to get rid of this person. And the person you demoted or reassigned is pissed off. Demotion never works. Reassignments usually don’t work because the employee’s embarrassed. And if they don’t want to work, they don’t want to work. They’re not going to want to work for somebody else.
3 There’s no rule of thumb for severance in this or any industry. The number that you offer somebody is something that your company president can decide. Make it an amount of money that will make your employee snatch it out of the air, sign, and leave you alone forever.
4 Set a precedent with last chances. You don’t want to set a precedent that everybody gets 15 last chances. So truly, make it one. It’s like a toothbrush: everybody gets one. That’s all they get. This person must follow the same rules and requirements as everybody else. You’re not asking for anything different. You’re not asking them for any more than all the employees are required to give. You have an opportunity for the employee to read and consider it. Let them go home. Let them go off in a corner and read it for a while and think about it.
5 Instead of a non-competition agreement, she recommends non-solicitation agreements. Most or all states will enforce a non-solicitation agreement because you are only enforcing what you really created. The employee, while working for you, created or maintained these contacts, these personal relationships and you’re only protecting what you really created.
Paul J. Heney – VP, Editorial Director