It is much easier to not ruffle any feathers with your staff by treating everyone exactly the same regardless of the circumstances isn’t it?
After all, managing with a fair and equitable hand is a best management practice. Strong managers have to be a stickler when it comes to company policy and general practice and let the chips fall where they may…
Well, yes and no.
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Being fair and equitable with staff is undoubtedly important and should never be disregarded. But the misstep that many employers make is that they take this mantra much too literally which can cause issues – the very thing that managers are trying to avoid.
Your employees’ actions or needs are unique and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis; contingent on your employee’s specific circumstances. Embracing the one for all and all for one approach to managing staff can backfire.
Case in point:
Your company policy states that any employee absences that exceed more than three in a year is excessive and that employees who exceed this limit may be subject to corrective action.
You confirm that one of your employees has been out five times in the last year to deal with a medical issue. That is two days in excess of your company’s policy so you speak to the employee about their excessive absenteeism.
You are all too aware that your employee is wrestling with a medical issue but you want to be fair and equitable. You warn your employee that their absences are in excess of the company policy and that they may be subject to disciplinary action. Maybe you decide to give your employee an oral or written warning.
What is the problem with being fair and equitable and holding the employee to the letter of the company’s policy about excessive absences?
The problem is that regardless of the company’s policy, employees with documented medical issues are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act, (FMLA).
Even if the employee has only verbally told you that there is a medical issue, just being aware that there is a medical issue means that you are now responsible for making sure that your employee is aware of their rights under the Family Medical Leave Act. Moving forward with any type of disciplinary action without giving the employee the option to take advantage of FMLA is punitive and is in violation of the employee’s rights.
Just one small example of how being “fair” can backfire.
So what’s a manager to do?
To be truly fair, always take into account that each of your employees are unique. Yes, it is important to be able to administer and defend any company policies or practices that are key to your business success, but you must also be able to recognize that each situation may be different and that you have to massage your approach accordingly.
Educate both managers and staff that policies are in place to ensure that the work of the company moves forward and to make sure that the employee experience is a positive one, but that each policy may need to be applied on a case-by-case basis.
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