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Chapter 6. Identifying the Garden-Variet... > Preventative Tools - Pg. 61

Identifying the Garden-Variety Difficult Employee 61 Here's the core issue. When you take formal disciplinary action--fire, dock pay, suspend, officially warn, or otherwise depend on what you believe is your management authority--you shift the playing field from working together to being on completely different sides. In other words, use a power-based approach to the problem and you encourage the employee to also use a power-based approach. If you try to use power, you get power back, and that's when you find that you don't have quite as much authority as you thought. Sometimes the use of power makes things much worse. So When Is the Use of Authority Warranted? When is it appropriate to use the preceding outlined tools? They're appropriate when you have exhausted other person-to-person attempts to resolve prob- lems. They're appropriate when the difficult behavior is dangerous or exceedingly damaging. That's the "when" part. But there are some other things you need to consider. Are you aware of the limits to your authority regarding the actions you might want to take? For example, do you really have the authority to fire someone? Will you be supported by your boss and the human resources department? If not, you would be foolish to try something that will fail. This Won't Work! One of the most damaging things that can affect your credibility as a manager is if you attempt to discipline an employee and have your decision reversed after the fact or do not get the support you need to carry it through. Before you take disciplinary action, consult with the right people to ensure you can do it. Here's what you do in situations where you feel formal disciplinary methods are indicated. First, confer with your boss. Explain the situation, ask for suggestions, and find out what he or she wants to do. Second, contact the human resources department to find out your options and what they suggest. By doing this you will know, in advance, whether you really have the authority to do what you'd like. Finally, it's always a good idea to be aware of any legal issues regarding formal management ac- tions. Generally, human resources departments can advise you, but to be honest, sometimes they don't know, either. If the formal actions you want to take are somewhat extreme (for example, firing someone), it may be good to consult the government office responsible for labor law in your area and/or a labor lawyer. We don't want to freak you out here, but you need to know both your authority levels and your obligations before you take drastic action. Preventative Tools We've talked about the importance of communication skills and tools, and the use of formal authority to deal with difficult behaviors when they have occurred. But let's face it. Isn't it better to prevent undesirable behavior in the first place? Sure it is. How do you go about doing that?