When Your Self-Starting Manager Has Gone Rogue
Self-starters make great candidates for placement into supervisory positions, given their ability to assume responsibility and build momentum in departments otherwise prone to inertia. Of course, these personality types are not without their own challenges. Those who won’t accept “no” from their subordinates can be equally unyielding when told “no” by the powers that be. With their can-do attitudes, self-starters may look at employment laws or regulations as hurdles to overcome rather than limits to the flexibility within which they can manage their respective departments. Such attitudes can ultimately lead them off the grid and into rogue manager territory. And that can expose the company to everything from regulatory fines up to class actions. Ask any employment law attorney with any experience: Chances are they’ve had to clean up at least one mess caused by a frontline supervisor who’s gone rogue.
Managers prone to going rogue must not only be taught what the company’s policies and procedures are, but also why the company adopted the rules it did. In other words, they must understand for themselves the legal consequences of ignoring a rule before they’ll accept the rule’s legitimacy. Additionally, it should be noted that compliance with labor and employment laws is not something managers can simply “reason through” like they might an assigned project or task. Nonetheless, such individuals too often assume there is a common logic to, say, wage and hour laws and then apply reasoned thinking to conclude an exception to company policy is warranted. No one can argue it would seem logical that an employee (at least in the private sector) who wants to bank overtime in lieu of having it paid out should be able to do so. But when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, they were concerned employers would influence employees’ otherwise voluntary elections and, therefore, prohibited private sector employees’ rights to wave their entitlements to wages earned in the pay period worked. In general, employees can waive very little under wage and hour laws, leave laws, etc. Rogue managers who don’t know this can rack up violations, despite having nothing but the best of intentions.
It’s absolutely incumbent on employers that their supervisory skills training encompass a section on HR compliance—to include a discussion of why the rules exist. In essence, you want to ensure your managers have a working knowledge of the most relevant laws impacting the workplace, at least as those laws relate to the employees those managers supervise. Obviously, your training needn’t hold them responsible for every regulation in detail. But it isn’t enough to instruct them what to do and what not to do and leave it at that. If they don’t understand why it is they must adhere to a company policy (i.e., because it’s the law), they’ll be more prone to finding an exception or assuming the benefits to taking an exception to the policy will outweigh the risks of the company getting caught. If managers know that the risks include possible class action litigation with potential costs to the company of hundreds of thousands of dollars up to millions, managers are much less likely to go off the grid.
Employers Group offers a myriad of supervisory skills training options (to include HR compliance issues, of course). Moreover, EG is happy to customize your training to include employee handbook policies and/or labor and employment laws and regulations specific to your company. Please feel free to contact our Training Department anytime between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. PST to discuss the best options for your management team.
About the Author
Mark Nelson, JD, SHRM-SCP
Mark Nelson’s twenty-year career in Human Resources is informed not just by his daily interactions with Employers Group members as a senior Helpline consultant, but also as a labor and employment law attorney and a college-level instructor. He brings this multidisciplinary perspective to every classroom facilitation, focusing not just on what the law requires but how HR professionals can transform compliance issues into best practices and merge them with an underlying philosophy on what the HR profession can and should be to an organization, questions every HR professional should be asking themselves on a perpetual basis. He has designed semester-long HR-specific courses down to one-hour webinars, and seminars of every length in between. He has delivered training one-on-one and to groups of hundreds of HR professionals and supervisors. Mark’s practical instruction draws from the thousands of questions he has fielded over the course of his years working with HR professionals and uses those real-life experiences to ground what can otherwise seem to be abstract legal principles.