Treating employees in a consistent manner is more difficult than it might seem and causes more problems for supervisors, managers and business owners than most other issues related to talent management. Large company or small, structured or unstructured, private or public, for profit or not for profit, all organizations will deal with this issue as long as there are humans involved in the equation.
Our HR consulting firm has written hundreds of employee handbooks for our client companies. These handbooks have been from ten to two hundred pages in length and have run the gamete from writing essentially “do the right thing every time” to step-by-step procedures related to the human side of running the business. We have sat with managers and supervisors prior to unemployment hearings or EEO claims hearings discussing how employees were treated. We have conducted performance coaching with many managers and executives and met with disgruntled employees at every level and of which has allowed us to surmise, the only consistency is inconsistency… and this is where the trouble starts!
Being a child of the seventies, I have a propensity toward doing my own thing, thinking and acting independently, and challenging others when I’m told what to do and how to do it. It has taken many years of hearing employees complain of unfair treatment and supervisors moaning about employees who know too much about everyone else’s business to get me to the point of suggesting that employers should in most every instance treat everyone alike and develop policies and procedures that support fairness and equality. More important than policies and procedures is the consistent manner in which managers manage and supervisors supervise. Many managers and supervisors would rather “look the other way” or make special deals and concessions rather than take a firmer approach to supervising. For every deal that is cut or policy that is ignored for one employee, several other employees will learn of the inconsistency and feel that they have been slighted and preferential treatment has been offered someone else. This will lead to “acting out” behaviors up to and including claims of discrimination and possibly litigation. Remember, there are laws forbidding discrimination especially as they relate to the protected classes. Working within the guidelines of company employee policy manuals and the law as well as delivering and documenting consistent directives to all employees will demonstrate to employees and judges that you are making a good faith effort to do the right thing in every case.