5 costly employment myths we need to discard

Everyone knows a good myth or two. And as it turns out, a lot of those myths end up being taken at face value and acted on as if they were true — and it’s costing employers. But much like the boogeyman, many of these employment “facts” exist only in our imaginations. 

During SHRM’s 2016 Annual Conference & Expo, HR consultant Hunter Lott presented on a few of these myths with the intent of stopping employers from acting on them.

They are:

“Back in my day, there was company loyalty. Now people jump jobs for personal benefit.”

Ever have a manager who wouldn’t hire a candidate because the person was only at a previous job for a couple of years, figuring the candidate is a “job jumper”?

Or has someone left your company only have the manager write off the person’s reason for leaving as “disloyalty”?

In the first case, you may have lost out on a great hire. In the other, your company may have overlooked a more serious workplace situation. Both decisions were made because job hopping is sweeping the nation like an epidemic, right?

Well, when you look at recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you see that employee tenure has actually been on the rise in the past thirty years. In 2014, the median number of years employees stayed at a company was 4.6 years. Compare that to 1983 and 1998, where the median was around 3.5.

So it’s safe to say the misconception that people are less loyal to a company these days is busted.

“We can’t punish Jill. We have to treat everyone equally.”

Providing everyone an equal opportunity doesn’t mean equal treatment. By that, Lott means you must reward good employees for good behavior and punishing bad employees for bad behavior.

You don’t have to be held hostage by bad employees, as evidenced by an Asian professor’s lawsuit against City University of New York. The university dismissed the professor due to her aggressive behavior toward co-workers and students. The employer had immaculate documentation outlining the behavior in her performance reviews, which eventually lead to its courtroom victory in the ex-professor’s discrimination lawsuit.

Bottom line: If someone isn’t acting appropriately, and refuses to or can’t change, let the person go. You wouldn’t apply equal raises to both your top and bottom performers, so why would you hold onto a bad employee when even the EEOC supports termination for bad behavior/performance? Just make sure all the documentation is there before you terminate.

“You can’t talk about salary in the workplace.”

This taboo topic is still in a few handbooks across the nation and spoken about in hushed, forbidden tones. But shutting down conversations about working conditions — which include compensation — is illegal, according to feds like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Yet, despite the NLRB’s strong stance against these sorts of confidentiality policies, punishing employees for discussing salaries still happens.

While such discussions may put employers in uncomfortable positions, you can’t stop employees from talking about pay.

“Trust your gut.”

Lott brought up a manager who only hired “Georges” or “Georgettes” because a guy or gal with George in the name had never steered the wrong before. This is an example of making a decision based on a gut reaction. It’s the emotional fallacy that what worked before is sure to work again.

As humans we’re comfortable with keeping things at the status quo. But Lott went into great detail about how dangerous these types of thought processes — or rather lack of thought processes — can be.

Turns out, when you rely more on quick-thinking and “gut-feeling,” you’re more likely to be wrong. Harvard Business Review’s (HRB) March 2016 issue expounded on the idea that the more confident a person is, the more likely he or she is to over-estimate their ability to make decisions based on their gut.

And HBR also found that people who relied on a mix of emotional and logical processes — revisiting and reassessing their data continuously — were far more likely to be accurate in the decision making process.

“It’s dangerous to be an employer. The EEOC is out to get everyone.”

Here’s some data to help ease this fear of the EEOC:

The EEOC released its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for 2015, and it showed that out of the 157,833,000 employees the EEOC covers, it received 89,385 formal charges in 2015 (that’s a charge rate of 0.06%). And of those formal charges, 65% were eventually found to have no reasonable cause and were dismissed.

In the end, what tends to save companies from a day in court is proper documentation and acting on facts — not biases or assumptions.

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