Employment law is a hot area especially in times of economic turmoil. More often than not, employment lawyers are called into action because of a fundamental institutional breakdown in communication. Employers do not want to communicate with their employees about workplace issues because they fear that whatever they say, “Can and will be used against them.” Employees don’t want to communicate with management because they feel that management only has its interests at heart.
I have been met with criticism because I have given advice to both employers and employees that defies generally accepted approaches and borders on, yes,… common sense. One of the reasons that I’ve been able to give this type of advice is because my firm represents employers and employees. I understand a workplace crisis from all perspectives and, unfortunately, I have witnessed both sides act in a less than mature fashion.
Management and human resources professionals, let me share some insight with you. In spite of all those wonderful moments at the last training session, your employees don’t trust you. They want to trust you but they don’t. The challenge you face is to change those deeply ingrained behaviors that scream, “My employer doesn’t care about me.” When a crisis erupts in the workplace, many employees believe that the fix is in. They honestly believe that management will only act in its best interest. Typically, that means getting rid of the employee that raised the issue. I know you are asking yourself, “What about the promises contained in the handbook?” Your employees don’t believe them for one minute. They view your handbook as another level of management protection. While handbooks are an excellent method to communicate expectations, what is needed is a management team that understands the value of human capital in concept and in practice. Only then can a common sense a dialogue begin.
Culture makes the difference.
I represent a number of companies that really care about their employees. These employers dare to be different. Their focus is different. They have committed to creating a culture of respect. They treat all complaints with the same degree of importance. Investigations are performed promptly. The results of investigations, and the underlying rationale, are explained to all parties concerned. These employers will work with the aggrieved employee to find solutions to workplace issues that are tailored to the situation. This requires a lot of face time, give and take, and the ability to trust one another. By taking the steps, employees begin to understand that they are important to their employer and not just another number.This also leads to an engaged workforce that drives high performance and positively translates to a bottom line impact. In so doing, you have created a culture of respect, inclusion and innovation. When this happens you will see a dramatic change in your workplace and a significant reduction in your legal bills because lawyers are no longer needed in the equation. That’s a good thing.