How to handle rule-breaking CEOs

Question:

As the HR manager for my former company, I was responsible for enforcing all policies. Although our CEO and the three other principals signed the policy against making cellphone calls or texting when driving, it was an open secret they did. In fact, both the CEO and a principal spoke at an all-managers’ teleconference while driving to Wasilla. I reminded the principals many times of the no cellphone usage while driving policies, and they all nodded, but broke the policy.
Just before I left the company, our sales manager had an accident while on the phone when driving to a customer’s site. Our CEO urged me to testify this manager acted against company policy by talking on the phone when driving, lessening our liability.
Even though I’ve resigned, I know I’ll get pulled in to this legal problem should things turn ugly. I’ve hired an attorney who tells me I’ll need to tell the truth and that I have exposure because I didn’t enforce the policy, which is listed in my job description as one of my responsibilities. How exactly do other HR managers get those who rank above them to obey policies?

Answer:

In your next company, you may be able to get senior management compliance by proving the risk they take on if they openly violate policies. Because their managerial positions define them as company role models, they render their company’s policies worthless paper when they violate them. Further, many owners and managers falsely believe their company’s insurance covers any judgment or settlement against their company should they be sued for an employee’s negligence. That’s not necessarily true.
Here’s the reality. Although the company may have a commercial general liability policy, it may not cover accidents for employees driving their own vehicles. The accident victim can hold the driver’s employer liable for the employee’s negligence if the employee is acting within the scope of employment, as for example, when the employee has an accident when running a business errand. If the employee doesn’t have insurance and the employer gets sued, the company has to pay attorney’s fees and any settlement or finding of liability out of pocket.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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