Sunday, August 17, 2014

3 Worst Mistakes Managers And Supervisors Make

They say the perfect business has no managers, no supervisors, and no employees. Unfortunately, your business isn't perfect, and you have to deal with managers and supervisors who will make today's "worst mistakes" if you don't train them.

Here are the worst mistakes managers make:

Worst #1 — Failure to Be Honest in Performance Management

Supervisors and managers don't like to deliver bad news, so they just avoid it. They observe bad behavior, they accept poor performance, and they say nothing, then it's time to complete the performance appraisal. Since they've said nothing about the poor performance, instead of hitting the employee with the truth, the supervisor or manager simply awards a "satisfactory."

The manager thinks that he or she is sending a message, because "satisfactory" is considered a low rating.

This creates a double edged problem. First of all, nothing's being done about the poor performance, so it will just continue as a productivity drag.

Second, you're setting yourself up to lose a lawsuit—already, the manager's thinking doesn't match the written record.

And things are only going to get worse. Eventually, the poor performance is going to cause the managers or supervisor to take action.

The manager fires the employee, but, unfortunately, once again, the manager doesn't tell the truth. The manager says, "Sorry, due to budgetary restrictions, we had to let someone go."

Later, the employee sues, saying, "I found out there are no budgetary restrictions. The firing was because I am in a protected group."

Now the manager backpedals—"Well actually, the reason for the termination was poor performance."

Boom. The framework for the successful lawsuit is in place.

An employee with demonstrably "satisfactory" performance (as documented by his appraisal forms signed by the manager), was officially terminated for "budgetary restrictions." Now the manager is saying the real reason was poor performance.  Clearly the manager was untruthful at some point.

And unfortunately, the poor performance is not documented. The jury is going to side with the employee. Or, more likely, this case is going to settle.

Worst #2 — Making Snap Decisions When Responding to Employee Requests and Complaints

Certainly, many employee requests are annoying, or unreasonable, or even outrageous, but that doesn't mean that you can ignore them, or refuse them, or even react angrily to them.

That's not easy when, for instance, a key worker asks for FMLA leave with the busy season coming up. Or you had a very good shot at getting a proposal out on deadline and then the writer needs "bonding time." Or his "back is acting up" or her "migraines are getting worse."

Whatever the situation, managers and supervisors need to be trained to "keep their cool" and give the request due respect. Training managers to deal with these situations is relatively easy—Tell managers "If this kind of situation arises, say 'I'll get back to you,' and head to HR."

Complaints are similar in that they can be upsetting (especially if directed at the manager or supervisor in question) but must be dealt with respectfully. For example:

  • Allegations of discrimination, retaliation, or illegal practices
  • Questions about safety or a refusal to do a job because it is viewed as unsafe
  • A report of an illegal act or refusal to perform an act perceived to be illegal
  • Questions about wages, hours, overtime, etc.
  • Requests for workers' compensation
  • Requests for accommodation on the basis of disability or religion

Employees have rights in these areas, and they must be respected. In addition, be aware that your denying these rights will rarely look good in court. ("Even after being informed that the action was unsafe, you tried to force the employee to do it?")

As one expert says, "Don't let your managers and supervisors deal with these situations—they'll mess it up for sure."

Worst Mistake #3 — Basic Wage/Hour Stumbles

Employees will tolerate a lot, but start messing with their paychecks, and there will be trouble, guaranteed. Many wage/hour problems seem relatively small, but they can be magnified dramatically as class actions.

For example, say you fail to pay 5 hours of overtime per week to an employee. Call it 250 hours in a year, with a $10 an hour premium, and it's $2500. No big deal. Now multiply by 200 employees. Whoops, that's half a million. Double it and add in attorney's fees—yours and the employee's—and you've got a big number.

Here are the most common wage/hour failures:

Failing to Pay All Hours Worked

One common scenario is employees who put in unpaid hours willingly ("Don't worry, I'll finish that up at home."). That's thoughtful, but it doesn't relieve you of the obligation to pay. The other common scenario is when people are expected to do setup before clocking in (filling cash register, setting up tables) or do cleanup after clocking out. ("Do you mind just prepping for tomorrow after you clock out?")

Another increasingly common scenario is employees who are expected to take calls or answer e-mail on their phones or Blackberries (or home computers) off hours. If it's more then de minimis, it's probably hours worked.

Making Special Arrangements

Another wage/hour problem that crops up is that managers and supervisors make special arrangements with employees. For example:

Offering comp time in private sector. There's no such thing as comp time in the private sector. If employees work, they get paid. (Hours may be exchanged during a work week, however; a non-exempt employee can leave work early and make up the time the next day with no problem as long as both days are within the same work week.)
Lesser or no overtime rate. No matter what employees agree to, or even ask for, they must be paid time and one half their regular rate for overtime hours.
After clocking out. Before clocking in. Employees may want to "help out" and work some hours off the clock, but that is not permitted. If they work, they have to be paid.

Failing to Properly Calculate the 'Regular Rate'

The regular rate, the amount on which overtime is calculated, includes non-discretionary bonuses, shift differentials, etc. If such bonuses are awarded after the pay period closes, you have to go back and recalculate.

Wage and hour, one of what, 20 things you need to train managers and supervisors on? Training is critical, but it's tough to fit it in. To train effectively, you need a program that's easy for you to deliver and that requires little time from busy schedules. Also, if you're like most companies in these tight budget days, you need a program that's reasonable in cost.

Thanks to Steve Bruce / HR Daily Advisor BLR / BLR Business & Legal Reports

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