How to manage a team when you don’t have the authority to fire anyone

Question:

I supervise 15 employees, the largest crew in our company, and I report to the general manager. I’m expected to handle employees who don’t show up on time or do what they’re supposed to — but I’m not allowed to fire anyone. That’s the prerogative of one person only, the general manager.

That’s like giving responsibility without authority, and since my manager reads your column I hope you’ll write why it makes zero sense. Here’s the problem. I need to fire two employees. Not only are both problems, but when everyone else sees these two getting away with murder, others on the crew realize I have no power, or, as one today told me to my face, “You’re all bark and no bite.”

Meanwhile, the GM tells me he won’t fire anyone without the human resources officer, who’s in another state, approving my documentation. Doesn’t it make sense for the person directly supervising employees to handle discipline?

Answer:

Many organizations make a mistake when they assign employees responsibility without authority. In firing situations, however, front-line supervisors rarely have full firing authority.

If you fire someone and the situation blows up in your face, the employee who feels wrongfully discharged sues the company. While you may or may not be named as a defendant, your company’s wallet takes the biggest hit in terms of legal fees and any ultimate legal settlement. While you make a good case for you being the one who makes the firing decisions because you know what’s going on with your employees’ work performance, your general manager deserves the final say and HR can keep you and your company out of legal hot water.

How, then, do you get your “bite”? By providing your manager and HR the documentation needed to justify the terminations. Don’t expect either of them to approve firing employees based solely on your say-so or on documentation that might not hold up in court. In other words, make your case and then both your GM and HR can put the teeth into your bite.

© 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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