Me being a left-brain, analytical sort of person, the touchy-feely world of the human resources world seemed odd and uncomfortable to me early in my career. But fortunately, I tried to pay attention and also received some quality formal training in supervisory skills along the way. How you treat people, employees, coworkers, vendors and customers, impacts the company’s cultural environment, and as such, can impact the overall internal control environment, too.
There are so many examples of bad employer behavior available, so I won’t add to the list. These are two examples of dealing with employee misbehavior that ended with different but equally satisfactory results.
For the first, I had an employee who was accused by the supervisor of coming in late and leaving early, but not reflecting the true time on the time card. The person was putting in for more time that actually worked. As is often the case, there were petty jealousies and interpersonal issues tied up in this. But it is a bad idea to act on rumors, so we waited, and sure enough, we developed video evidence of the employee entering the building with a time stamp, and the related signed time card with a different, earlier time.
This was a young and basically good employee otherwise. But the behavior was causing problems among the other workers. So I sat the person down and showed the clear evidence of the time card fraud. But it was a minor indiscretion in terms of financial impact. I asked if the employee wanted to stay with the company. The answer was yes. So we came to an understanding that a deferred note on the issue would be placed in the personnel file of the employee, and if there were no other issues in the next year, the note would be removed.
The key, I think, to the success of this was that I was not the one doing the dictating to the employee. The fate was in the employee’s hands. The person took complete control of his/her destiny. The person agreed to the deal and fully accepted it.
This person went on to be the most productive worker in the unit for several more years. This was a very good result. The other employees saw that the maligned behavior of coming in late and leaving early stopped and never recurred. They were satisfied that “something had been done.”
The second story was an employee who worked as a payroll clerk. Another employee came forward to complain that this person was disclosing and discussing details of other employees’ pay grades. So I sat this person down and explained the complaint and the issue. I made it clear that this was completely unacceptable and the person agreed. I asked if the person thought they could continue from then on and keep every aspect of payroll information strictly confidential, and the person agreed. I asked if they thought it would be fair to terminate them immediately if they breached this confidentiality in the future, and they again agreed. We decided to give this person one more chance.
The key, again, to the success of this was that I was not the one doing the dictating to the employee. The fate was in the employee’s hands. The person took complete control of his/her destiny. The person agreed to the deal and fully accepted it.
It was not long after that the initial employee came forward again with the same complaint. This time, I called the payroll clerk in, explained the complaint, and asked if they remembered their deal and promise. They admitted it. We had memorialized it in a document, too. At that point, I terminated the person’s employment immediately and escorted the person to the door.
Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve seen an employee terminated for pilfering a single Starburst candy from a damaged goods bin. I’ve also seen an employee who came forward and confessed to stealing about $1,000 with full restitution who simply could not stand the guilt, and who was kept on. The individual results will always vary widely, but the process should be consistent, transparent, open and fair to all parties. We should treat our employees the same way we would like to be treated. Everyone makes mistakes.