Fair or Consistent, Which Is More Important?
For the last 35 years, I have worked in the Human Resources field.
I have primarily worked in hospitals and the financial industry
as a Director or Vice President of Human Resources. These employers
usually had between 300- 1700 employees.
During those 35 years, I have conducted thousands of interviews.
When interviewing a candidate for a management position, one of
my favorite questions to ask is, "From a management perspective
is it more important to treat your employees fairly or consistently."
Some individuals would say that those are synonymous terms. However,
in my experience, it is quite possible to treat an employee consistently
according to established policy, but at the same time being unfair
to that individual based on his/her particular situation, as well
as to treat an employee fairly, which may be inconsistent with
a company policy or procedure. I usually get some very interesting
answers to that question.
So, what is the right answer? To tell the truth, I personally
wrestled with the answer to that question for several years. But
then I came to an important realization. I determined that one
of the primary purposes of my role as the Human Resources professional
for any organization was to keep my company out of court. My obligation
was to insure, to the best of my ability, that my organization
did not become involved in any harassment, discrimination or unfair
treatment lawsuits, especially unwinnable lawsuits.
I soon realized that if you treat all employees consistently,
according to the established written and disseminated policies
and procedures of the company, you will win these types of potential
lawsuits. By ALL employees, I mean ALL employees. You must treat
your best and worse employees consistently according to your pre-established
protocols. Never play “favorites”. Applying a policy
in an inconsistent manner, trying to be “fair” to one
at the expense of others, could cause the employees to believe
that they are being singled out or discriminated against for other
reasons. This then leads to lawsuits or EEOC investigations or
During my 35 years in the HR field, I have had to deal with approximately
18 charges of discrimination or unfair treatment which were filed
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by disgruntled
employees. Of those 18 charges, no employee was ever paid a dime
as a settlement. All charges were summarily dismissed by the EEOC
All Human Resources professionals also have to deal with employees
who routinely file for unemployment compensation after they have
terminated from the organization. The key to winning unemployment
compensation claims is documentation and again, following written
policies and procedures. Throughout my working career, I have successfully
defended 98% of all contested unemployment claims which were filed
against my company.
I present this information not as a boast but rather to point
out that consistency in the implementation and day to day enforcement
of an organization’s policies and procedures will make it
much easier to fulfill one of the primary objectives of any HR
professional, to try to insure that your company is not involved
in any unwinnable harassment, discrimination or retaliation lawsuits
or EEOC investigations.
A company’s best defense against the potential expense and
aggravation related to federal or state law violations is to proactively
review and revise as needed their Human Resources policies, handbooks,
hiring procedures, compensation, benefits, training programs, communications
tools and other functions. The professionals of PHHR are ready
to assist your organization maintain compliance with the latest
state and federal mandates.
Paul Hilton Human Resources Consulting works with our clients to insure that all required documentation is correct and sufficient to successfully defend against a claim to any unemployment compensation commission.
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Paul Hilton is a certified Human Resources Consultant, located in
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