Exclusive B21 Survey: 80% of HR Executives Feel Supervisors Don't Document Terminations Effectively

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New research from Business 21 Publishing suggests that only 20% of HR executives surveyed are confident that supervisors at their company know exactly how to document employee terminations and thereby avoid lawsuits.

Drafting an employee termination letter. Filling out an employee termination form. Writing up a disciplinary letter for the file. How confident are you that your supervisors can execute these tasks correctly?

New research from Business 21 Publishing suggests that only 20% of HR executives surveyed are confident that supervisors at their company know exactly how to document employee terminations and thereby avoid wrongful employee termination lawsuits.

It could be a misplaced employee termination letter or an incorrectly filled out employee termination form. A minor error, but it could make a big difference when you get sued for wrongful employee termination.

Here are some of the key reasons managers and supervisors don't document, and what you can do about it:

1. It-can't-happen-here syndrome. Safety managers deal with this every day when they see workers who think they can skirt safety regs without getting hurt. One often-used tactic is to scare them into compliance with vivid examples of how others got hurt or killed. No one dies when a manager fails to document a firing, but anybody who's ever been through a wrongful employee termination lawsuit knows how ugly, demoralizing and distracting the process can be. Remind your managers of that. Show them examples of how companies just like yours got hit with crippling lawsuits. Keep the emphasis on how lawsuits don't just happen when you DO something wrong; they happen when you DON'T do something right -- like clearly documenting an employee's deteriorating performance.

2. Fear of confrontation. Experienced supervisors have usually gotten past this. But new bosses often hesitate to confront an employee who's not performing or misbehaving. Key documents, even an employee termination letter, may not even be created. Training and coaching can give people techniques and language that build confidence and make it easier to confront -- and document -- behaviors that could lead to dismissal. Managers who fear confrontation are particularly insidious because the documentation they produce often CONTRADICTS the adverse action they took against an employee. For example, plaintiff's lawyers feel like they won the lottery when they get their hands on glowing, or even neutral, performance reviews about an employee who was fired for persistent incompetence. When an employee's personnel records includes these performance reviews and then an employee termination letter, it raises a lot of questions. Why, they ask the judge or jury, didn't the manager ever mention the problem in the reviews? There's no good answer to that question.

3. Disorganization. Managers are very busy people. They've got deadlines to meet and quotas to fill. And a lot of really good managers tend to focus their attention on the winners in their group, not the losers. Documenting the performance of troublemakers and non-performers can easily fall to the bottom of a manager's priority list. Is there an employee termination form missing? In cases where you suspect the paperwork isn't getting done, you can partner with managers to see to it that it does.

4. Preferential treatment. Imagine how it looks in court when plaintiff's attorneys show that while a manager carefully documented the misdeeds of their client, he or she failed to do the same for another employee guilty of similar infractions. We see lots of lawsuits where bosses, motivated by their dislike for an certain employee, diligently document every misstep he makes. But they conveniently overlook similar problems with people they like. That doesn't wash in court, and HR needs to educate managers about the dangers of preferential treatment.

One last thought for those 20% who feel they're totally confident their supervisors are doing the right thing: You may be safe today, but six months down the road you might not be. Getting managers to document bad behavior is hard work. Getting them to conduct performance reviews where they confront people for non-performance and clearly document shortcomings is even harder. Both require training and continual reinforcement from a vigilant HR department.

To see full survey results and read the entire article, click on this link: http://www.b21pubs.com/intelligencecenter/viewArticle.asp?articleID=405

To read a course description about an audio conference Business 21 Publishing will conduct on June 7 entitled "How to document terminations (so you won't lose a lawsuit)" click on this link:

http://www.prestostore.com/cgi-bin/store.pl?ref=Business21&ct=47546&pd=285260

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Stephen Meyer