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HR/Management question

globetrotter

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question - there is this one guy on my team who is a real putz - hasn't pulled his weight in 5 years, does't perform, bad attitude, etc. he is older, and I haven't wanted to be too pushy to begin with, so I have tried to ease into managing him gently. a few weeks ago, I sent him some instructions by email, and he went to my boss to complain that I was pushing him to much. my boss supported my position.

yesterday, I asked him to make some changes (entirly legitimate) in a document, and he told me that that was the way he wanted his document to be, and if I wanted the changes, I should write another memo. I sent him an email that basically said that he should stop assuming that my instructions are a basis for an argument, and that I expect him to do as he is told.

today, I called him into my office, and he came in and said "I think that before you start we should have a 3rd person in here to witness the discussion". as my boss is out of the office for a few days, I told him that we would do this on Thursday, and told him to get out of my office.


anybody have a take on this whole "witness" issue? I have never encountered it. I wasn't going to fire him, just put him in his place.
 

kronik

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I'm no manager (a lead, about to start applying for management jobs) and I've already experienced the youth vs. older issue in the workplace. I'm 25; a number of people that work under me are 30+, a couple 40+.

That being said, I'd recommend documenting everything for awhile.. saving copies of e-mails, etc. Does your company employ a "write-up/reprimand" system? If so, this will allow you to avoid or at least escape the age discrimination bug that you may have to worry about.
 

topcatny

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Not sure on the whole "witness" thing. My gut tells me he's not going to be an easy person to get rid of, even if it is justified. I'd take kronik's advice and start documenting everything you can. If he replied in an e-mail that he wouldn't make the changes you wanted print out the e-mail and put it in a folder along with anything else similar that occurs.

I stepped into a similar situation recently. I had a person who had been in her a job a few years , though she was still young, late 20's early 30's or so, she didn't think she needed to do anything I asked of her and went out of her way to basically ignore me. She ended up making it easy, she quit before I got to fire her.
 

GQgeek

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Having the boss present like he asked isn't a bad idea, especially if he is a problem employee. It sounds like you're giving him a chance since you've just started, but it seems clear that you don't want to keep him around forever. I second the motion that you document everything. It's a hassle but at least you cover yourself and the company.

Believe me, despite my age, I've seen some nasty stuff in court over employees that were fired for very good reasons by companies that didn't properly document their incompetence prior to dismissing them. I would be especially mindful of this in the US, where there is a clear tendency to sue whenever possible. You have to build a case against them before you fire them. On a positive note, at least it's not a women because then she could use the dreaded "he fired me because i'm pregnant" excuse, which someone used against my parents when they owned their hotel.

My opinion is that this guy is only digging a deeper hole for himself that will make him easier to fire later on. I don't know your boss, but I have a strong feeling that he's going to consider this a waste of his time and be annoyed by this employee's petty bullshit and refusal to follow instructions.
 

Quirk

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This guy is giving you a gift; you're much better off having a witness. Do you have an HR department?

If the guy's as much of a jerk as he sounds, he may well try to take some kind of legal action if he's terminated, especially if he doesn't find a new job right away, but there's nothing you can do about that. Just make sure you document everything and follow your company's disciplinary action procedures and practices.
 

maxnharry

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Am not sure what his issue is, but he is in what I call the "death spiral". He is destined to be a former employee unless he executes a 180 degree attitude change. I would probably give him one more chance to explain what his issue is with your boss present and then begin the documentation process that is necessary to relieve you of him.
 

Fabienne

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I hope you did not word what you said to him as you portrayed it in your email (get out of my office, do as he's told). He's shooting himself in the leg as it is, no need to sound like you're antagonizing him.

With problem employees, my policy is to always remain courteous, and it has paid off for me, at least. They usually change their ways, and if they don't, then I don't use them again, and I cannot be reproached with having done anything to cause a situation.
 

Thomas

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I'm not sure of the labor laws in NY, but you should definitely begin documenting the pattern of (likely) insubordination. The more documentation you have, the better off you will be, since he will probably try to recover his lost wages from your firm.

By all means, have a third party present, your boss is a great choice. If you access to neutral GC (lawyer) at your firm, that also is good. Be sure to have your folder together with all the instances of conflict, especially where he has butted heads with other co-workers.

One issue you'll face is this: five years of non-performance, and just now you're taking action? You'll be faced with precedent and should prepare an answer for that one.

If sounds as though he's unhappy in his position, and your next conversation might take the direction of - what would you rather be doing? Maybe a transfer might do the trick for both of you. However, if that conversation is unproductive, I wouldn't waste any more time in unburdening myself except to dot the i's and cross the t's.
 

Stu

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Originally Posted by globetrotter


anybody have a take on this whole "witness" issue? I have never encountered it. I wasn't going to fire him, just put him in his place.



Witnesses are your friend, my friend. When I was the executive editor of a newspaper I would always have witnesses in the "Come to Jesus" meetings. It made things simpler later if I fired them and things got to litigation.

I never lost a case, because I was so careful about documenting everything and building layers of witnesses.

Everything, and I mean everything, cac and will be taken out of context. Don't trust his witness. He might want to bring one, if so make sure your secretary sits in because you need one of your people there too.

After the meeting, immediately, and I mean immediately, write down everything you can remember that describes the meeting and what went down, including quoting verbatim anything he said.

Be careful about writing memos to him, remember your words are preserved for history.

PM me if you want, I have tons of experience in this area.
 

Condor

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You should think about putting a bug in your
own office. That way it's all on tape.
I think its legal if one party knows they are being recorded.
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by Condor
You should think about putting a bug in your
own office. That way it's all on tape.
I think its legal if one party knows they are being recorded.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Think about it if you wish, but after thinking about it come to the unavoidable conclusion that it would be a big mistake.
But I agree with several others that his inisstence on having a witness present is a gift. I've defended a number of wrongful termination cases, and one of the challenges is that important issues often turn on a "he said, she said" dispute about what actually transpired during a key conversation (or, in some cases, whether the purported conversation happened at all).
 

globetrotter

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I may be totally confused here - but my state is an employment at will state. the employment contact states that neither side owes the other an explanation or any advance notice to termination of our working relationship.

what constitues "wrongful termination' aside from over race, religion, age, sex etc?
 

lawyerdad

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Originally Posted by globetrotter
I may be totally confused here - but my state is an employment at will state. the employment contact states that neither side owes the other an explanation or any advance notice to termination of our working relationship.

what constitues "wrongful termination' aside from over race, religion, age, sex etc?

In an at-will situation, that's about it, if you include - at least in some jurisdictions - the concept of a termination in violation of public policy (e.g, firing somebody because they were an honest whistleblower or because they refused to donate to your preferred political candidate). But the problem is that the employee may later claim that the firing was really motivated by one of these improper considerations. I don't know how much "older" this guy is, but he might be able to seize on that as an excuse.
The bottom line is that the situation seems to be heading in a direction that eventually could end up in litigation, and if it does end up there you want the historical "record" to be as clear and unimpeachable as possible.
BTW, for the reasons I mentioned, I'd suggest you be careful not to refer to his age in memo's, emails, conversations, etc. at work.
 

Thomas

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Wrongful termination may not be the big issue at hand for you. IIRC, you are - as stated - within your rights to terminate for any or no cause. However, there are two scenarios that could cause you some heartache.

First - unemployment insurance. In Texas, if we do not fire for cause, we are on the hook for participation in unemployment benefits, and each unproven case adds to our tax bill. Not a big burden, but that then leads to...

Second - Employment suits unrelated to termination. If this gent really has a burr under his saddle, he may try to hit you with a harassment or discrimination claim. Particularly if he's a good bit older than you. Just the cost and distraction of defending will affect your business. If you successfully defend against unemployment insurance, then you'll likely have a better time with this as well.

For that reason, you're probably best served establishing - in writing - cause, pattern of infractions, and attempts to remedy.
 

Dakota rube

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A wrongful termination suit was just decided here this week in which a 59-year-old former sports information director at one of the local universities claimed he'd been fired because of his age. The university denied his claims.

The university paraded onto the stand witness after witness detailing this dude was inefficient, ineffective and inaccurate in his work.

The court found for the SID when he testified the interim athletic director asked him his age, and his plans for retirement, the AD intimating that he was "too old to do the job" if and when the university jumped to DI.

Game, set, match.

Careful GT.
 

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