Mastodon Rash action could lead to false conclusions in dealing with employee problems

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rash action could lead to false conclusions in dealing with employee problems

The mall was packed Saturday afternoon. The fact that we had a few inches of snow on the ground did not help the parking situation. I drove around for more than 10 minutes looking for a close parking space so the cold walk wouldn’t impact my two-year-old son’s asthma. I finally eyed a great spot, only to have it stolen by a woman who ignored my turn signal while she zoomed up the aisle the wrong way. I’d normally curse loudly from the safety of my car and move on, but on that day I took a stand. I parked behind her car, waited for her to get out, rolled down my window, and confronted her over her lack of parking lot etiquette. Surprisingly, she apologized, asked me to pull forward so she could back out, and surrendered the assholespot. We exchanged courtesies and went about our ways. When I came out from the mall, I found a note tucked under my wiper blade. It read, “ASSHOLE.” I can only assume that the note was left by someone in the line of traffic behind me who, not having witnessed the entire transaction, assumed that I had stolen their space.

There is a good lesson in this story for employers. Don’t act rashly when dealing with employee complaints or problems. Employers should only take action after a full investigation into all of the facts and circumstances. When an employee complains about something, you only are getting half of the story (at best). If you act based on that half, you are jumping to a conclusion, the correctness of which might as well be a coin flip. You cannot have any confidence in the ultimate conclusion until you conduct a complete and unbiased investigation, which includes interviewing all witnesses, reviewing all documents, and considering all versions of events.

There was an asshole in the parking lot on Saturday, but it wasn’t me. It was the person who left the note without knowing how I ended up taking that spot. Don’t make the same mistake and shortchange your employees by jumping to rash decisions and failing in your duty to fully and completely investigate all employee complaints.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or