Personnel e.bulletin – December 2016

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HR Lessons From Real Life – Tactical Answers for Situations You May Face, Part 2

Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

Whatever the makeup of your company, your employees will present complex human resources issues. Here are a few examples of how to address them effectively.  For previous examples, see the PHCC Educational Foundation Personnel e.bulletin from May 2016.

Examples of Situations You May Face

Here are three more examples of personnel situations you may face at your company:

1. Employees routinely arrive later or leave earlier than prescribed by their designated hours.

2. An employee is moonlighting – or working a second job – and it interferes with his or her work for your company.

3. There is inappropriate favoritism between employees, i.e. a dispatcher consistently sends one technician out on the best jobs.

You can use the following steps, with slight modifications depending on the problem, for each of those situations.

Step 1: Set Clear Expectations That Reflect Your Company Culture

Set clear company policies that you will later communicate to your employees. This involves creating straightforward rules. Are defined start and stop times important to your business? Establish employees’ schedules and your expectation that they will arrive and leave no earlier or later than the start and end of their prescribed hours.

Moonlighting can affect employee performance and interfere with your business – especially if company owned equipment or materials are being used for this side work. Establish a moonlighting policy to address concerns that an employee’s performance could be affected by working another job; the employee may not meet the demands of his or her work schedule because of the other job; the employee may spend time at your company working on tasks for the other job; and the other job may represent a conflict of interest if it’s for a competitor. Make clear that misuse of company equipment and materials will result in disciplinary actions.

When establishing a moonlighting policy, don’t forbid working a second job completely because that would be difficult to enforce and could cause you to lose valuable employees who need to work more than one job. Focus on noninterference with your business and employee performance. Make clear that the position at your company is the employee’s primary job, so other jobs shouldn’t affect performance or adherence to the work schedule. Also include in your conflicts of interest statement a requirement for your approval of any second job.

With rules for start and end times and moonlighting, for example, you can point to written standards if an employee is violating them. On the other hand, you might not have an established standard for a specific situation like dispatcher-tech favoritism. That’s why it’s important when you set expectations that you also establish your company’s culture.

Your culture will depend on the principles you want your company to stand for. You can emphasize fairness and ethical treatment of both customers and fellow employees. That way, you can create an environment that discourages favoritism and, if an employee acts unfairly or unethically, you can point to that culture in bringing up the behavior and determining consequences.

Step 2: Communicate Expectations from the Beginning

When you onboard employees, share your expectations. Explain all the company’s rules such as start and end times and the moonlighting policy so that employees know and can follow them, and you can point to them if employees violate them. You should also start emphasizing your company’s culture from the beginning. Make clear to employees that if they ever have questions about any of your policies that they can come to you.

Step 3: Observe

Once the rules and culture are established, you should monitor their implementation, the first step to reinforcing your policies. Keep track of whether employees are arriving on time and leaving at the end of their scheduled day through both observation and their time sheets. Take note if your employees show signs of moonlighting – for example, they arrive late or leave early, they are consistently unable to work overtime, and their performance suffers. And finally, keep track of which jobs employees are routinely taking and document any complaints indicating favoritism.

Step 4: Address the Problem Immediately

If it’s clear that there’s a problem from what you’ve observed and the information you’ve collected, have the tough conversation with your employee immediately.  Apart from addressing the problem, this shows your employees that you mean what you say and are serious about your expectations and the company rules.  Be respectful, direct, and clear.  Remind the employee of your expectations and why you have them.  Besides laying the groundwork for your conversation, this allows the employee to ask questions about the policy.

Then lay out the situation and how and why it violates the specific rule or principle.  Then tell your employee how you plan to address it, which will lead you into step 5.

Step 5: Decide on and Implement Consequences

The consequences for breaking specific rules should be included when you’re setting and communicating specific expectations. When a consequence has not been specified – for example, if there isn’t a specific rule against favoritism, but it violates your company culture – you should assess the situation and determine a consequence based on the violation.

In general, the severity of the consequences will depend on the violation. The consequence could range from having a conversation with your employee and saying you’ll monitor the situation – and then doing so – to giving your employee a warning, to termination.

Constantly Clarify Expectations

You should constantly be communicating and clarifying your expectations.  This will make the working environment more transparent and increase the likelihood that employees will come to you with questions when they’re confused about policies.  As discussed in the December 2015 e.bulletin, you should have informal performance management conversations with employees at least monthly. That presents a good opportunity to remind employees of any policies they seem to be struggling with.

Also, you might need to adjust your expectations and add policies.  This might happen in situations like the dispatcher-tech example – there may not yet be a specific rule because you haven’t confronted that situation before. Alert employees immediately when you make an adjustment. For particular kinds of rules, there may be state or federal laws on the books on how the policy change needs to be communicated to employees.

Ensure that all employees are informed so that they’re aware and more likely to follow the rule and so that you have evidence that you’ve informed employees if one of them breaks the rule and you need to enforce it.  You can communicate in writing – in an employee handbook, on a bulletin board, in an email, or in a memo.  You can also make announcements at an employee meeting or tell employees one on one in informal conversations.  A combination of these communication techniques will better ensure that employees are aware. And remember to follow legal requirements and ensure that you have evidence of communicating policies that will back up your enforcement of the rules.

In the end, reflect your company culture when addressing situations such as disrespecting start and end times, moonlighting, and favoritism.  Make sure to apply your rules and principles consistently across employees and constantly communicate your expectations and how you’re enforcing them. If you follow these steps for all kinds of situations, you’ll create a more transparent culture and promote a successful workplace.

_____________________________________________________________________________This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of October 2016. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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