Thursday, February 16, 2017

When an employee threatens to resign and uses it as a negotiating tool, what is the ideal response from HR managers or company management?

"There's the freakin' door . . . It's even got a backlighted sign mounted over it telling you in simple, one-step instructions exactly what you can do with it."

If someone has a legitimate (or at least respectable) grievance, or reasonable provocation, I can see them getting a little wound up. In that event, they really shouldn't have to make the threat: it could be, they're just getting emotional . . .

Image result for exit sign

But as a negotiating tool?  Don't let the door hit you where Mother Nature split you. 

If they even make the attempt (in the form of a threat, rather than just describing an option if they do happen to have prospects elsewhere), it's highly questionable whether they need to be working there to begin with. I once had an employment lawyer share with me that, in every single case of employment-related litigation that crossed his desk it invariably developed, once all the potential witnesses are interviewed and discovery is completed, that the employment situation with that particular employee had broken down long ago and had not been working out for either the employer or the employee for quite some time. Whatever actually precipitated the termination, or the angry resignation, and the ensuing lawsuit was merely the catalyst, the 'final straw'. 

And when you get served with that suit, it'll assert claims that had nothing whatsoever to do with the issue that triggered the departure, on claims that never seemed to be an issue worth complaining about prior to that incident, and that will be much, much harder to defend against (at least without a lot of nastiness during discovery, and potentially thereafter if a summary judgment motion by your own $200-per-hour lawyer isn't successful . . .), accordingly. 

  • If it's a discrimination claim, that aggrieved employee will have had several additional months' tenure there during which he or she can cite so many 'examples' of 'racially-motivated' or 'ethnically-motivated' slights suffered by him or her, none of which were worth mentioning at the time they supposedly occurred, until that fateful day that you had to fire him or her for giving out unauthorized discounts to customers.
  • If it's a sexual harassment claim, she'll have had much more time to accumulate imaginative stories and 'examples' about how I was leering at her, making inappropriate 'innuendo-laden' remarks, or she felt that I was mentally undressing her; with no indication prior to the time of the scheduling dispute that made her mad enough to quit, or prior to the time we passed her over for an assistant manager accountability, that I might have been doing or saying anything that could make her uncomfortable in any way.
  • If it's a wage-and-hour claim, no one ever had any idea he was shorted some hours on two biweekly paydays over the past three years prior to the time I refused to give him a raise because he did so little work during the time each day when he was on the clock that maybe you should have taken a look at cutting him loose a year and a half ago . . .
So, my own inclination is, once you're pretty that that's how an individual's situation with your company is ultimately going to end, anyway, no matter what might be done to resolve it; then get it out and confront it, and do what you've got to do and get it over with while the most you can be hit for is an unemployment insurance claim. 

Like my father taught me, try to avoid having problems with people you know you're going to do business with, and avoid doing business with people you know darn well you're going to have problems with. Or, like one of the smarter hotel owners I've worked with put it: don't get sucked into a feud with any one or more of your staff. If you don't want someone there, just get rid of them. Fear, anger and resentment are emotions you might expect to find in a prison, but have no place in a hotel.

The only thing delaying the inevitable is going to get you is reduced efficiency as a result of discontent and disengagement, a toxic work environment, and in the end, it will probably be even more costly. 

A positive, harmonious work environment and company culture among the staff is a precious thing, especially in a 'hospitality'-related business where the environment is a large part of your stock in trade, and where creating, maintaining and nurturing that environment is much of the service that you offer your customers. Once that environment is made toxic, it is very tricky to 'detox' and to restore positivity and harmony: circulating a memo warning people that 'there will be no further crappy politics in this workplace as of now' just doesn't seem to work. So, any threat to it must be taken and treated as seriously as stealing, sexual harassment, or workplace violence. 

Some level of unhappiness on the part of everyone is going to be present in every workplace, every human being is going to have personal problems or issues, and I am by no means saying that anyone who does experience such things should be put down as an 'attitude' case (quite the contrary, the 'offensive a-word' is forbidden in my company) or have their head handed to them: these must be managed with care and compassion whenever they come up by all involved. But these feelings do have to be managed (indeed, specific grievances need to be addressed and dealt with). A definite No-Asshole Rule ( ) needs to be in place, and adhered to as strictly as it can be enforced without making it the very problem you're trying to keep out of the space.

No one is indispensable, or can be, or can be permitted to become so. You're staking the entire company, or operation, or the part of it for which you are accountable, or too much of it in either case, on the continued health and well-being, goodwill, and sanity of a single individual. Even if I keel over from a heart attack and drop dead tonight, or go splat in a car accident, the payroll's still got to be made next week, and equally important matters need to be handled or attended to, so a plan needs to be in place . . .

Originally appeared on Quora

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