Thursday, September 26, 2013

Whatever You Do, Don’t Let ‘Em Go Away Angry

A few days ago, I quoted Bob Funk,  president and founder of Express Employment Professionals, as saying that “employers are living in a state of fear" as a result of EEO and other employment laws.

As a worker, I find his opinion appalling, and as an HR professional I find it maddening.

Here’s my experience.

99.9999999 times out of a hundred, an employer has nothing to fear from any regulatory agency, so long as the employer isn’t acting like an ass.

But when the employer begins acting like an ass, that’s when bad things happen.

For example, if an employee brings a complaint of discrimination and then the employer does nothing or goes into CYA mode, instead of listening and acting like he gives a crap, then employees start to feel invisible, and depressed, and sometimes very, very angry.

And when employees get angry, that’s when the employer should be afraid. Not before.

But here’s the good news. Employee anger is not a foregone conclusion. Anger comes in stages. Again, in my experience, employees don’t start out angry. They start out hurting and wanting somebody to give a shit about their problem.

And when that doesn’t happen, and they’re ignored, or ridiculed, or told they’re mistaken (despite all evidence to the contrary), or retaliated against, or shunned, or whatever—you get the picture—then they begin to feel dejected and trapped and hopeless, and eventually, angry.

And in my opinion, it’s employee anger that fuels many claims and suits, not greed, or opportunity, or any of those other things we sometimes hear about.

It’s simple. After a while, people get tired of being treated as though they aren’t human, they decide to fight back, and then the trouble starts. (Actually it started way before this, but from the employer’s perspective, then the trouble starts.)

And this is soooooo avoidable.

No employer or employer agent (that’s you HR) has to agree with every half-baked complaint brought forth by an employee. (I admit it. Not every complaint will have validity.) But there’s a way to deal with the situation that leaves the employee feeling heard and cared for without compromising the employer’s interest.

However, if you’re just going to go into “lock down,” refusing to give an inch and even acknowledge your employees’ humanity, then, well, you may get what you deserve.

But really, nobody wins. Employees don’t want to be fighting these battles. They just want to work in peace, get a paycheck, and go home.

And of course, only an idiot employer would relish these skirmishes.

So why do we keep perpetuating them?

Is it that hard to look your employee in the eye and see a person? Geez.

Okay then. Let em’ go away angry, and you continue to live in fear.

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