People management, Work Relations

Whoever has the authority to hire workers, has the same authority to fire them

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I’M NOT SURE ABOUT THE PRACTICES IN OTHER COUNTRIES.  But here in the Philippines, I still encounter people asking questions on who should personally handle employee discipline, including the unsavory act of firing erring workers. True, employee discipline is an unpleasant task, but it doesn’t mean that HR should take the brunt, if only to take the dirty job away from line managers who have no backbone to do it.

The role of HR is basically a staff function with the responsibility of giving professional advice to line management executives. In Management 101, HR as a staff authority has a special task that includes studying and sharing of industry best practices, giving advice, and making recommendations to line executives within the same organization. HR, like the finance department, will have the same staff authority to coordinate with line executives on which accounting forms to use to facilitate the release of budget and eventual purchase of certain equipment or services.

Even without this theoretical underpinning, it is unthinkable, unwise, if not impractical for an HR department head to discipline all erring workers, while their line bosses whistle their way around until the next potentially problematic worker comes in. Let me tell you this once again. Problem employees and employees with problems are created by problem managers.

If only these line executives are qualified to perform their job of personally nurturing and motivating their workers, like a green thumb gardener (as opposed to a lumberjack), then there should be no disciplinary issue that could reach HR.

People managers don’t have much choice but to personally manage the conduct and behavior of their employees. There’s no other way, if they want to remain part of the management team. HR may come in to hold the hand of the concerned line executive, but the latter must still play an active and strategic role.

To make everything runs smoothly, HR and the line department must study the applicable policy, rediscover established precedents (or exceptions) and more importantly to observe both substantive and procedural due process. HR may only be present to support the line executive in issuing the charge memo and guide both parties (the boss and erring worker) on the proper procedure.

HR’s presence in the disciplinary process is helpful, if only to ensure that the worker is given his full day in court. Therefore, HR must remain objective and neutral in the entire process to secure the trust of the worker.

Remember that the higher purpose of employee discipline is to correct unwarranted behavior and therefore must be personally managed by the concerned line supervisors and managers.

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This article first appeared in Rey Elbo’s advice column “In the Workplace” in the Jan 26, 2018 issue of BusinessWorld. Image credit goes to iForex Blog.


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People management

Who’s right — employee or customer? But it’s not who’s right, it’s who is left with you

MAN IS  REASONABLE. If you treat your employees more than what they expect of you, they will reciprocate by treating your customers more than what they expect you to do. It is as simple as that. Progressive discipline has become obsolete in the 21st century workplace. If you’ll stick to the imposition of reprimand-suspension-termination procedural steps, chances are, erring employees may even challenge you with the idea of bringing you to a court of justice, if not make things difficult for the organization in some ways.

Disgruntled employees can do a lot of things. They can sabotage business operations without you knowing it. Among other reasons, they can even copy product designs or customers’ database for some malevolent reasons.

Instead of progressive discipline, why not explore positive discipline where instead of giving suspension without pay, you allow erring employees to exhaust their vacation leave credits instead? Of course, you may find this as an extreme idea, unless you benchmark with other dynamic organizations on how they manage difficult employees.

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People management

A manager is one who thinks he knows about management than the workers who do the job.

A traffic enforcer stopped a speeding car at the intersection of a busy location. The driver was a priest. Putting away his citation book, the cop said: “Father, I’ve to tell you there’s a Protestant cop at the next light.

In the same vein, I would often caution people managers in my popular seminar on “Superior Supervision” to reflect on their management style to heed W. Edwards Deming’s (1900-1993) admonition that “80% of all problems can be blamed to Management, and only 20% can be traced to the Workers.” This is usually strengthened by Peter Drucker’s (1909-2005) claim that “what we know in management is usually on how to make the work of people difficult” or words to that effect. It’s easy to understand Deming and Drucker if we know PLOC (planning, leading, organizing, controlling) under Management 101.

Fortunately, I lot of these managers listened to my advice. They were able to change their management style after learning more about themselves and the situation where they’re in. But does self-knowledge generally improve managerial behavior? You only have to reflect on the morale of the workers to find out. One barometer is the attrition rate.

People management

Sometimes, it takes several years to learn the obvious, basic things.

Recently, I was asked by one BusinessWorld reader: “What makes lousy workers lousy?”

My answer was: “If you see a turtle on top of a car in your garage, you know it had help from someone in getting there. The same thing can happen in people management. If you, as a manager don’t help your workers do their job, your four fingers will point the blame to you, and you will be in trouble.

Here’s the link to my Feb 6-7, 2015 “In the Workplace” column

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