What do you do when you have an employee who is producing the results you want but is breaking the “rules” by not following proper protocol? This is a story that shows that results alone are not always the best criteria to determine whether an employee is retained and how proper documentation will “save your bacon.”The setup
The original story involves an older employee (60+) who, despite having some of the highest sales results, was terminated in a reduction-in-force. Naturally he cried “foul” and sued the company for discrimination on the basis of his age. On the surface it might seem he had a strong case, a high performing employee let go while younger employees with lesser results were retained. But he lost, why?
The value of documentation
The reason the guy lost was that the RIF determination was not based on sales results but rather performance evaluations. Apparently our sales guy liked to break the rules and not follow the procedures required by the company. He was talked to multiple times, written-up for it multiple times and put on a final warning before the RIF. (Note: I am not sure why the company waited so long to terminate the employee. Perhaps it was the power of his sales results that saved him so long.)
Mr. Sales-guy lost his case because the company was very good about documenting what they had done with him. In fact they had done such a good job of that documentation, and showing that everyone else RIFed was similarly treated, the judge granted summary judgment to the company. That means he had no chance of getting to a jury.
There are a couple of lessons that can be learned from this brief story.
- Any time you have a performance issue with an employee, document it. And keep documenting until the issue is resolved.
- Look at the total performance rather than just one aspect of it. As in this example, sales revenue could have led to keeping an employee performing poor in other areas.
- Make sure your focus is on job-relatedness. In this example there was no focus on the employee’s age and there should not have been.
Applying these simple lessons will more often than not save your company from protracted and expensive settlements. Save that bacon, everything, including HR is better with bacon.