Every management expert’s been on HR to be open with employees about company and policy changes. For the most part, it’s a great idea — except in these instances.
Here are four ways communicating with employees can get you in deep legal doo-doo, courtesy of Foley & Lardner attorney Richard Albert on the Labor & Employment Law Perspectives blog:[ad id=”med-rec”]
- Verbal communiques can be misunderstood. Speaking with employees in-person — either one on one or in a group setting — allows you to convey things you can’t with an email or a memo, including empathy, compassion, sympathy, excitement, etc.
But relying only on verbal communication can also lead to some misunderstandings of what’s been said that might come back to haunt you.
Always pair verbal communication with a written confirmation of what was discussed and what it means for employees moving forward.
- Comments from managers or execs might constitute binding agreements. Caution your managerial staff about offhand comments regarding wage increases or benefits improvements.
Those types of informal discussions get companies in trouble all the time — especially when those “promises” aren’t made good upon. That can lead to upset workers, loss of engagement and lawsuits out the wazoo.
Instead, stress that managers and execs only make commitments that are authorized and that have been planned out and approved.
- Talking with union staffers sans a union rep can get you in trouble. You likely know it already, but talking with union workers about things like wages, hours or working conditions without a union rep present is asking for trouble. Managers who are already cautious about what they say to staff should be extra careful around these employees.
- Being unclear is no way to communicate. You may be tempted to give employees every piece of information on all the changes going on in the company. Resist that temptation. There are a lot of benefits to being clear, concise and direct, primarily that there are no ways you can be misunderstood or the info can be misinterpreted. Ask yourself: If I was an employee, would I read this through all the way and have an understanding of what’s going on? If not, it’s back to the drawing board.