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Taking Away Excuses
We live in a world marked increasingly by two trends. The first is what appears to be a significant decrease in the willingness of people to accept personal responsibility for their own actions - or lack of actions.

The second is a significant increase in the volume and intensity of whining, of blaming others and of claiming to be a "victim" of persons or forces beyond the individual's control.

Each of these trends is sad and unfortunate. Taken together, however, they represent a serious challenge to public administrators and all human resources professionals (i.e., every manager and every supervisor these days must be skilled and aware of basic HR issues in order to do their jobs properly).

Fortunately, there are tools that help us successfully supervise others. Among them, is positive feedback, support and role modeling for subordinates. We must also devise ways to take excuses away from employees who blame others for poor performance or behavior shortcomings.

It is much more productive and personally enjoyable for a manager to be able to recognize and reward excellence than to spend energy focusing on and dealing with those whose behavior and performance acts like a virus weakening the organization. In dealing with those individuals, the manager must take excuses away so that the person is much less able to substitute excuses for performance.

You take excuses away by several actions:

1) Have clearly written policies

2) Ensure that the policies are widely distributed and that individual employees review and acknowledge their understanding of responsibilities under agency policies. One way to do that is with a written receipt that employees sign acknowledging that they received, reviewed and had an opportunity to ask questions about the agency policies. As policies change, this process must be repeated

3) Conduct ongoing training with mandatory attendance for all employees to review the highest priority policies. These should include ethics and prevention of unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment and workplace violence.

(Past columns have provided information on how to set up such policies and what their basic content should be.)

4) Include a complaint procedure, ending with an executive having the authority to take corrective action and provide protection against unlawful retaliation.

When managers and supervisors understand their roles as agents of the county ... when they behave in a manner that makes them positive role models for others ... when the steps above are followed in the case of every major policy in the organization, and when prompt and effective action is taken if a complaint or a problem becomes known (or should have become known), the result will be a strong defense against complaints.

More importantly, from a positive pro-active perspective, the steps above make the organization a better place in which to spend a career. They provide the environment for an organization that serves the public more efficiently with an energized workforce focusing on winning rather that whining.

Best Wishes,

HR Doctor

(The HR Doctor is written by Phil Rosenberg, Broward County Fla. personnel director.)


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