Taking Back the Workplace

For a myriad of reasons, companies have accepted work from employees who are distracted by telephone calls, text messages, surfing the web, checking emails, and have time and attendance issues. This has resulted in employees putting in anywhere from one to three hours less each day. That means that over a month an employee may work 20 to 60 hours less than he should. That results in a huge additional burden on the company.


The employment discrimination laws were drafted during a very different time in our history. The first major national anti-discrimination legislation came out in the 1960's during an era when there were significant concerns regarding race relations and when women were changing the face of the workforce. That there was an increasingly diverse workforce coupled with a shrinking world made it important for there to be employment laws. However, the laws were not drafted to protect substandard employees.

Over the next 45 years, it has become clear what is expected of employers. Most large companies have become leaders in training, carving out employee manuals and instituting effective programs to ensure compliance with the anti-discrimination laws. However, far too many companies have fallen short in either crafting proper programs to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws or programs that ensure that employees are working to their maximum potential and that morale is high.

There are many theories as to why this is so. One is the fear that an employee or former employee may sue for discrimination. Another reason is that there is a disconnect between HR, senior management and divisions. As a result, action is often not taken because of a lack of training, poor communication or a lack of recognition of a problem. The third concern is that some companies have poor promotion policies which leads to ineffective people sitting in management positions.

Demanding 100 Percent

Companies should create a policy and practice that embraces the employment laws. Through thorough training and planning, it is possible for companies to foster policies that are clearly within the letter of all applicable laws rules and policies. These policies can lead to clearly defined expectations for all employees.

The company can and should generate checklists that are followed each and every time it becomes apparent that an employee has issues. The checklists will ensure that the policies of the organization are applied evenly so that there are no viable claims of disparate treatment.

Further, management has to walk the floor and assess the climate in each department. Let the employees know that leadership cares about them. Engage consultants to conduct climate studies to ensure that the atmosphere is what it should be.

In addition, leadership needs to make it clear that certain conduct will not be tolerated. Towards that end, complaints need to be taken seriously and properly investigated. Even if a complaint of harassment does not fall under discrimination laws, it should still be investigated. All of these practices should rid the company of the fear and allow it to get back to sound business practices.

Disconnect Between HR and Divisions

The disconnect between HR and the divisions is a huge problem in many organizations. There is a perception that HR is a glorified office manager or simply a cost/burden. That is not ideal. HR can be a leader in the company and needs the proper recognition as such. Were the divisions to better communicate with HR would lead to a more aggressive approach to management which gets rid of waste, uncertainty and confusion.

Greater interaction between the division and HR will necessarily lead to a better understanding of roles and responsibilities. Were the division to allow HR to actively participate when it first becomes apparent that an employee has issues, a plan of action could be initiated. Is this an employee who can improve on performance? Does this employee have issues that can create conflict in the workplace? Are there warning signs? Does the manager know how to document? Should HR be brought in to coach? Are there multiple issues arising with the same manager?

Finally, promotion policies need to be addressed. For instance, the sales manager is selected based upon sales numbers without regard for an interest or ability to lead. This practice inevitably ends with poor management and a lack of coaching of the sales team. This practice has to change. Understand that a great salesperson does not automatically result in a great sales manager.

By considering these points you can get a better handle on your organization. Then you can make it clear what is expected of your employees and have the proper team in place to see to it that the message is clearly stated and enforced. This will help ensure that we can turn the corner and enjoy high productivity and morale with reduced risk and exposure.