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The 5 Biggest HR Sins that Managers Commit

The Plight of the Manager...Sigh

Managers have tough jobs. If you lead people, you know what I'm talking about. Your job becomes even more complicated when you work for a small to midsize company.

Larger companies tend to have a full service human resources team to ensure you are hiring the right people, staying within the bounds of employment law, firing the wrong people, and keeping everyone happy with benefits and development. Hooray for them!

For smaller organizations, managers typically get handed the gift of figuring out the HR job as they work their regular jobs. The company may not see the value of bringing on an HR person or team, so the manager ends up struggling through the people issues and constantly searching for answers in all the wrong places. This approach can end up costing big dollars for the company through high turnover and even lawsuits.

According to Rocket Lawyer, over 100 million lawsuits are filed every year against companies, and over half of those end in some type of monetary compensation. The costs of lost productivity, time spent on dealing with employment issues, and morale have an even greater effect on the profitability of the company.

"But I did my best with what I had..."

It doesn't matter what your intentions are to do a good job, People will leave what they perceive to be a sinking ship. They will also fight when they feel they've been wronged. It may or may not be in the form of a lawsuit, but they can damage a company's reputation fast.

I have my team of HR consultants and contractors out in the trenches with companies at this very moment, and they all empathize with the managers who live in these tough situations. The stories they tell of how they handle HR issues are frightening and messy. When our team comes in to help, it's amazing how managers instantly feel that sense of relief.

"Thank you for being here. I did the best with what I had. Can you fix it?" This is a common theme we hear. Of course, we come in and fix things. We also know that experience and education of compliance, employment law, and overall human resources creates a tighter safety net. Not only do we fix things, but we also help organizations learn from their mistakes.

So what are the biggest sins that managers commit?

I put out a post to my local HR community about what they thought were the biggest boo-boo's, and I got comments like:

"We could write a book about this!" and "I would be here all day!"

The truth is there are a bunch of ways you can commit human resources errors, so I am going to put out my team's top 5 HR Sins:

1. Thou hast not documented performance issues and discussions.

Have you ever wanted to take disciplinary action or terminate an employee who is not performing? You've talked to that employee time after time, but you didn't capture notes, and now you are getting push back from the powers that be. You may also forget what your conversations were about, so you just take action without clearly outlining the progressive path that has been occurring. Everyone is angry and you are being challenged. If the employee is covered by Title VII, you may get a letter from the EEOC asking your for documentation. Uh oh.

2. Thou hast not discussed performance issues or been clear on expectations.

You have been meaning to address the performance issues, but just haven't time. Or maybe you don't want to deal with the conflict, so the situation escalates. The employee becomes a wrecking ball, or ineffective, but doesn't know how you see the situation. Not fair.

How about the fact that you've tried to have a conversation and you were so vague that the employee is not clear on what it is that you want, so he fills in the blanks and just does what he thinks he is supposed to do.

3. Thou hast made discriminatory hiring and firing decisions.

"She's cute. I am hiring her."

"That guy is Muslim. He's going to come and shoot us all so we aren't hiring him."

"That employee is 50 years old. It's time to turn him loose because we need someone younger who will be with us for awhile and can handle the job."

These are real statements that have been said by intelligent managers who just don't realize what they are doing. These statements are also discriminatory according to employment law.

Discrimination, whether it is intentional or not, can have the EEOC and lawyers knocking down your doors, infringing on your time and money. It can come in many forms, especially when you are making hiring decisions.

Did you know that personality assessments are sand traps for discrimination? Yet, many employers rely on these assessments, only to find out later that they a) eliminated a certain protected class; and b) still hired someone who wasn't right for the position.

4. Thou has messed with someone's compensation.

Bottom line, you must pay people overtime, even if you didn't approve it, according to FLSA. You also can't withhold their paycheck until they return personal property, and you have to pay their last check within the regular timeframe that you've established within your payroll processing. The rule of thumb is that you have to do what you said you would do.

5. Thou has broken the company policies and/or applied them inconsistently.

Your employee handbook is like your company bible. Don't have one? It's time to get one- immediately. Have one but policies are unclear? Get them straightened up so there are no legal loopholes. The biggest issue here for managers is appearing to show favoritism by inconsistent application of a policy toward different employees.

For example, let's say your attendance policy says after 3 unexcused absences, you face disciplinary action up to and including termination. You decide you are going to fire Jane Doe because she violated this policy. You don't fire Jon Doe even though he has had 4 unexcused absences. This can look and feel fishy.

What Should You Do Now?

The best thing you can do is to bring in an HR expert who can conduct an audit to identify your best practices, your vulnerabilities, and where you are out of compliance. Once that happens, the HR expert can create a recommendation plan moving forward, as well as support the execution of that plan.

The Corporate Talent Institute provides full support HR Management Services to companies who want to be a great place to work, but also a compliant place to operate in. We provide a wide variety of services including:

  • HR Auditing and Compliance

  • Advisory Services

  • HR Strategy Development and Implementation

  • Sourcing and Recruiting

  • Onsite Generalist and Manager Support through contracting

  • HR Process Upgrades

  • HR People Engagement, Leadership Development, and Talent Potential Programs

Learn more and visit us here!


Are you interested in learning more about the Corporate Talent Institute? Click here to explore our website. We'd be glad to set up a consultation call with you.

Angela Nuttle is an author, speaker, talent remodeler™, and consultant in talent and organizational development. As founder of The School of Executive Presence, she teaches business people how to show up with executive presence. She also works directly with CEOS, Business Leaders, and HR Teams to develop people, potential, and processes that create productive and profitable business environments. To learn more about her experience with Fortune 500 companies and relevant solutions, visit or

To learn more about her organization, visit

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