Too senior to manage?

Welcome to this two minute HR Blast. This time the topic is managing your senior staff. At Jaluch, whilst we advise on hundreds of HR issues every month involving employees, we don’t often get asked to support with the management of senior staff. The big question of course is ‘why not’?

We don’t believe this is because senior staff don’t mess up or misbehave. Instead, we believe that more often that not, this is down to organisations actively shying away from managing senior staff  and CEOs, Directors and HR staff shying away from managing issues that could be embarrassing, difficult or just plain awkward.

But let’s look at a few of the issues, particularly relevant to senior people, that really do need managing if you are to operate and manage all the people in your business professionally and appropriately:

  • Fraud
  • Time keeping and attendance
  • Use and misuse of company property
  • Breaching of IT security policies
  • Ignoring bribery act legislation
  • Under performance in the role
  • Misconduct and gross misconduct
  • Bullying

We won’t work through the whole list, but just to highlight fraud, did you know that a KPMG report in 2012 identified that 55% of all corporate fraud is committed by Finance directors, Chief Execs and others in senior roles. Only 6% of fraud was committed by employees.

Senior people have more access to business money than other staff, they have the essential knowledge that enables them to steal without being found out (imminently) and they have sufficient intelligence (usually) to cover their tracks well.

Money corrupts. Money makes intelligent people do stupid things. The love of material things often overcomes people’s scruples and integrity, so leaving money ‘around’ is just asking for trouble. And double trouble if you leave it around for someone senior to get tempted by, as the amounts stolen will be bigger and the fallout more embarrassing.

Other Issues
And the same applies to so many of these other issues we have highlighted. Having a director job title does not come with the automatic perk of being able to turn up or take off whenever you like. This may happen in some places, but is not an express right in all work places. You should therefore ensure that directors understand what level of attendance is expected.

Equally, we see directors and senior staff taking the view that they should not be held as responsible for the care and use of company property in the same way that employees are. Similarly IT security policies should apply across the board (so no more unlawful downloading company files into Dropbox or taking a photo of that document you have just been working on). Also adherence to bribery legislation should apply equally to junior and senior staff and there is no reason whatsoever, why an underperforming senior manager or director should not be subject to the same disciplinary procedure as other staff.

But clearly organisations often do not manage the issues that come about amongst the senior team. This begs the questions why not and does it matter?

In terms of ‘why not’, here are a few of the reasons

Why senior people are not managed well

  • A lack of awareness amongst those in authority of how incredibly damaging senior staff can be to the organisation. Whether its stolen money, unmanaged sexual harassment, bullying of junior staff or endlessly working a 3 day week to ensure maximum time on the golf course.
  • A lack of confidence amongst HR staff about how to go about managing a senior member of staff
  • A weak CEO or other director who does not support an HR team attempting to manage a difficult situation
  • A cowardice amongst directors generally to ever choose to manage one of their own.
  • An organisational culture that affords too much latitude to senior staff
  • Lax or careless employment contracts for senior staff that make provision for a generous pay off if you wish to ‘get rid of a problem’. If the contracts didn’t have a ‘pay off’ clause in then organisations might make more effort to manage the difficult issues that arise.

And does it matter?
It absolutely matters. It matters if you don’t want to chuck money down the drain by ignoring fraud or absence. It matters if you believe in setting standards for your staff. It matters if you want to be a professional employer. And it matters if want to ensure that every single person in your organisation is properly managed and working at all times in the best interests of the organisation.

Managing senior staff better

If this Blast has prompted you to think about raising standards and finding ways to better manage your senior staff, then here are a few prompts from us:

Audit and review

  • Introduce 6 monthly (external) audits of senior team personal expenses and business finances/spending
  • Annually review absence levels, turnover levels and disciplinary action/grievance complaints in each part of the business. This should highlight if there are any issues in any particular part of the organisation.
  • Do carry out background checks and other security checks on key senior staff before they are appointed to the role.
  • Contracts and employment policies
  • Do not include generous pay off clauses in director contracts.
  • Include in exit interviews a requirement that the exit interview is carried out by someone other than the director or senior manager of the employee leaving and ensure each exit interview includes questions around standards, behaviours and management.
  • Take your management policies that relate to employees and create a version that is applicable to senior staff. This way there is a route to take and clear steps to follow should anything occur.
  • As part of your whistleblowing policy, include a clear section on the steps to take if someone wishes to blow the whistle on a senior member of the organisation. Ensure reassurances are given about how complaints will be handled and provide clarity on how employment will be protected if employees raise issues that are clearly in the interests of the organisation to be known.

Day to Day

  • Be wary and watchful of directors who build their own ‘empires’ and who deny others access to their empires. This inevitably results in no one really knowing what the culture and behaviours within that part of the business are.
  • Provide clear guidance for HR staff on how to tackle and manage sensitive issues involving senior staff. Do not undermine your HR function by allowing a culture of ignoring senior team issues.
  • At every board or other senior team meeting include on the agenda issues around setting standards of behaviour, leading by example and ethical management. Regular discussion of these issues will ensure all directors understand very clearly what is expected of them.

We hope that this HR blast has been useful. If you would like clarification on any of the issues raised, would value our support in managing any sensitive issues, if you are interested in developing any HR policies or training for your senior team in how to manage and motivate staff, then please call us on 01425 479888

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individuals matters.


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