In many of our previous blogs, we’ve talked about being clear, concise, and consistent when it comes to employee matters. The importance of precedent directly aligns with consistency.
Precedent is a simple concept, although not always easy for employers to follow. It all boils down to this: what you do for one, you do for all. Through your actions over time, you are setting the tone for your organization’s culture, whether good or bad.
If your company policy outlines disciplinary action for tardiness, you must hold each and every employee accountable to that policy in the same way. It’s not just a matter of company culture, either. It can also be a legal issue.
Let’s say you terminate an employee because they are repeatedly late to work, but that employee accuses you of wrongful termination due to age. If your defense is the employee’s history of repeated tardiness, yet the employee can show examples of another employee with repeat tardiness who is still employed and younger, you probably just lost your case.
In both wrongful termination and unemployment cases, the burden of proof is on the employer. If your policies are implemented consistently over time, precedent is on your side. But if you’ve been inconsistent with your actions, precedent works against you.
Managers only hurt themselves when they’re inconsistent in how they manage. It creates issues of favoritism, causes them to start second-guessing decisions, and opens the company up to legal action. It also creates internal threats to the organization through the negative culture you create. Employees notice inconsistency, and it can impact company morale quickly.
Precedent is about taking what you’ve decided as a business and putting it into action. It’s about creating a positive company culture where people know what to expect of themselves and one another.
When it comes to policy, things are pretty black and white. You are either on time or you are late, and that applies to everyone. Creating the right precedent as an organization empowers your supervisors to manage consistently. Employees know what to expect and supervisors know what to do when situations arise, as they always will.
But keep in mind that precedent doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a specific policy or procedure forever. If you decide to change something, you absolutely can change it. But you need to clearly communicate why that change is happening, the date the change will occur, and what the new policy will be going forward. You can reset everything and start clean in terms of precedent, but only if you’ve clearly communicated the change first.
Does your organization struggle with inconsistency in how policy is enforced? If you’re ready to embrace the importance of precedent, contact WhyHR today for more information.