Performance | 

5 Seemingly 'Great' Ideas that Could Backfire

Employers are always looking for better ways to hire, pay, motivate, and manage their employees. While some ideas can seem great in theory, in practice, they may backfire. Here are five examples.

#1: Unpaid suspensions.

"To demonstrate how serious we are about harassment, let's put any accused employee on unpaid suspension pending the outcome of our investigation."

Why It May Backfire:

If you routinely suspend accused employees without pay before the investigation is complete, it could call into question the impartiality of your investigation and lead to further claims of discrimination. While you may need to separate the accused employee from the accuser pending the outcome of the investigation, you can likely accomplish this without suspending the accused employee. You could, with their consent, transfer one of the parties to another department or schedule them for different shifts. If you choose to separate the employees, make sure the move doesn't burden the employee who complained of harassment, since this may look like you're retaliating against them for filing a complaint. If you think a paid suspension of the accused is warranted, check with legal counsel first.

Note: There are federal and states rules that restrict or prohibit unpaid suspensions in increments of less than one full workweek for employees who are exempt from overtime.

#2: Banning political discussions.

"We're tired of arguments over politics in the workplace. Let's just ban all political discussions."

Why It May Backfire:

While employers in the private sector may generally place reasonable restrictions on political discussions during work time, trying to restrict all political discussion may be impractical, could have negative effects on employee morale, and could violate certain laws if those discussions involve the terms and conditions of employment. Instead, consider monitoring the issue, and if these types of discussions become disruptive, interfere with work performance, or potentially violate nondiscrimination laws, respond in accordance with your company's written policies and practices. When monitoring employee conduct, treat all employees consistently regardless of their political views.

#3: Transparent complaints.

"Since our company culture is one of openness and honesty, we're no longer going to accept anonymous complaints. If you want to file a complaint, you need to attach your name to it."

Why It May Backfire:

This approach could significantly undermine your efforts to prevent and respond to discrimination, harassment, and other misconduct in the workplace. There are a variety of reasons someone who witnesses or is a victim of misconduct may want to complain anonymously and if you don't provide this option, they may be less likely to come forward. You should treat all complaints seriously, and promptly investigate the allegations, regardless of whether you know the identity of the complainant.

#4: Termination for no call/no show.

"When an employee fails to report for work without notice ("no call/no show"), it's a serious disruption to our business and unfair to other employees. For that reason, we've decided that all no call/no shows will result in automatic termination."

Why It May Backfire:

Extenuating circumstances, such as a serious accident, emergency, or illness may prevent employees from giving notice. This is particularly important when the employee's absence is protected under a federal, state, or local law in which the employee may not be required to provide advance notice. Taking adverse action against an employee for a protected absence or for failing to provide advance notice could violate these laws. For these reasons, establish procedures that include attempting to contact the employee before enforcing your no call/no show policy.

#5: No more performance reviews.

"We're getting rid of performance reviews because most of our employees and managers hate them, and we aren't even sure they're very effective."

Why It May Backfire:

Done right, performance reviews can help improve productivity and motivate your employees. They can also help you make informed decisions regarding promotions, training needs, pay increases, and disciplinary actions. While your employees may not like your current review process, they still want and need feedback. Instead of getting rid of performance reviews altogether, consider ways to improve the process or other effective options, such as regular check-ins, simplified and more frequent assessments, or 360° feedback.


Before implementing any new initiative, make sure you fully evaluate whether it complies with federal, state and local laws and strongly consider how it will impact your business and employees.


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