The 10 Commandments of Human Resource Administration

Article excerpt

One "too early" Monday morning, sitting at defense counsel's table in a chilly courtroom, I watched the plaintiff's attorney, a rather Icabod Crane-looking fellow, shuffle up to the podium, holding a bound volume tightly to his chest.

The attorney's clutched volume caught my attention because I couldn't remember the plaintiff producing anything like it to us during discovery. As I grabbed for plaintiff's exhibit list to see if the book was disclosed, I could feel my co-counsel's body tense, readying to stand and object to whatever surprise opposing counsel was planning to spring on us.

With bowed head, counsel quietly and formally placed the volume, opened to a marked page, on the podium. He removed an antique watch from his breast pocket, lifted the cover, and lay it next to the book. He took some wire eye-glasses from another pocket, placed them on the end of his nose, adjusted them around his ears, and proceeded to speak, or rather, preach (and I swear this a true story): "In the beginning."

Before we could stand and object, the judge -- a former military man who tolerates no nonsense in his courtroom -- was out of his chair, black robes billowing around him, energetically waiving his arms: "No, No, No, counsel, this is a discrimination case, not a church service. We'll have none of that in this court."

I have to say that it was the oddest beginning to a trial I have ever witnessed. I almost wish the judge would have let counsel continue so that we could have seen where the "Genesis" opening was going.

Generally speaking, I am not inclined to include biblical references in my work product (although several may be applicable to certain situations), and it is not my intention to include godly pronouncements in this column with any regularity. This said, however, I do believe that an employer's adherence to 10 simple rules can keep the employer out of a lot of trouble. For this reason, I am beginning this series of columns with a structure borrowed from Exodus.

Here, in my view, are the "10 Commandments" of human resource management.

I -- Hire Good People.

Good people come into your workplace and make it pleasant, productive and profitable. Bad people do the opposite. Employers can avoid hiring a bad person by carefully reading employment applications for consistency of information; by checking personal and work references; and by running (in a lawful manner) rudimentary background checks.

One story: after an incidence of workplace theft, an employer went back and tried to verify the information on the suspected culprit's employment application. The employer discovered that in 19__, the year that the employee said he was working for company "A," the employee was really serving time in Prison "B." Enough said.

II -- Treat Your Good Employees as if You Want Them to Stay.

Employees stay employed with, and work well for (and do not sue) employers to whom they are loyal. Loyalty in employees is built on a foundation comprised of respect, a communicated growth or promotion plan for the future, fair treatment, positive communication about employee strengths and weaknesses, pay that is commensurate with the work, and a pat on the back for a job well done.

Buying loyalty is expensive. The above items are all free.

III -- Communicate Your Expectations.

One employer with whom I worked was frustrated and angry because her employee had responded in a negative and, arguably, unlawful manner to a question posed over the telephone by a person asking about a former employee. …