Many companies reward good job performance with promotions. Often, the promotion involves some type of management or supervisory role. However, being a good employee does not always equate to being a good manager. Individuals who are not trained in management and employee relations can be a source of liability for companies.
There is an art to managing people and not everyone is suited for the position. It is not easy to balance motivating employees in order to obtain optimal job performance and policy compliance at the same time. New managers should be trained on the company’s policies and various employment laws before ever managing one individual. The manager must know the company’s policies and how they have been applied to others to assure consistency. Managers need to find the middle ground between being too punitive or too lax on employees as both can cause problems.
From a legal standpoint, the untrained manager can cause liability by not knowing about harassment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave, worker’s compensation and the many other employment laws that we all must live with in today’s world.
Over 10 years ago, the courts recognized that harassment can occur on the basis of all protected categories, not just gender. Therefore, it is unlawful to harass an individual on the basis of race, age, disability, national origin as well as sex or gender. Managers must be able to recognize when an individual is complaining of harassment and then has an obligation to investigate the complaints. Quite often an employee who complains will specifically ask that “nothing be done” or that it be kept quiet. This cannot be done, it must be investigated. All such complaints should be immediately referred to Human Resources or the appropriate person in the company.
Managers must also know what the attendance requirements are for the company and consistently enforce those. If the company has more than 50 employees and is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the manager must know what can trigger an FMLA Leave so that paperwork is submitted with the required 5-day timeframe. Quite often, new managers are not aware of the FMLA and subsequently do not tell HR about the absences until the employee has been off for several weeks or numerous times. The FMLA is a very employee-friendly law and requires strict compliance.
Along with the FMLA is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires that disabled employees not be treated less favorably than non-disabled employees. The definition of disability is very liberal. The law also requires that all accommodation requests be considered and those that are reasonable, be granted. An accommodation can range from additional leave time to needing modified equipment in the workplace. The law itself is a web of confusion and each case must be evaluated on its own facts. Managers should know enough to spot an ADA issue or request for an accommodation by an employee in order to seek the appropriate advice. Ignoring requests for an accommodation or discriminating against the disabled employee can ensure a quick trip to the courthouse.
All workplace injuries must be reported immediately using the company’s reporting mechanism. Some injuries must be reported on the OSHA 300 form or be immediately called in to OSHA depending on the severity and number of employees involved. Telling employees not to report an injury in order to “save the company money” is not the route to follow and happens quite often with the untrained manager.
Good managers must also provide timely and honest feedback to employees. Most individuals do not like confrontation so it is natural to avoid difficult conversations when an employee is failing in the workplace. However, avoiding the issues only compounds the problems. It does not let the employee know that the work performance is substandard and most employees will honestly believe the work is acceptable until told otherwise. It also does not document the poor performance making it far more risky to terminate employment for performance issues later on. Juries will see such behavior as unfair to the employee and may question whether the termination was truly motivated by discrimination or poor performance if no documentation exists. Evaluations should be done at least annually and should be honest. Any rating should be supported by a narrative comment that explains the rating. Additionally, documentation of performance issues should be done contemporaneously with the event. The documentation should be fact-based and fully explain the situation so that a third party reading it would know exactly what occurred.
It is highly advisable to send new managers to a training class or to hold such trainings internally. Promoting an individual and not providing the training can be a recipe for disaster.Back to news