There is no magic formula you can follow to prevent an EEO complaint. The best you can do is to take steps to minimize complaints by creating and maintaining a positive work environment. In our last post, we discussed talking managers through their first EEO complaint, but the next question is usually how to avoid complaints. We can all agree with Ben Franklin’s famous axiom, “an ounce a prevention is worth a pound of cure”. To that end, we offer the following strategies…
- Treat Individuals Fairly and with Transparency:
Another well-known axiom is that actions speak louder than words. This is especially true for managers. Employees will observe your actions to judge whether they mirror your words. They pay close attention to your interactions not only with them, but also your interactions with their peers. By treating employees under similar circumstances equitably and fairly, managers prevent complaints. Too often managers feel they don’t have to explain their actions and decisions based on the “management’s prerogative” protective shield. While that may be the case, the indiscriminate exercise of that authority, without also exercising appropriate transparency, will eventual sow seeds of discontentment that manifest as complaints. Successful managers find ways to exercise transparency without compromising their managerial authority.
- Open Lines of Communication:
Promote open, two‑way communication with your employees. Encourage employees to discuss their problems and concerns before they escalate into a dispute and possibly an EEO complaint. One common example happens when managers become so busy, they fail to take steps to address performance‑related issues when they are minor and only react when the issues become major. Without communication and immediate corrective action, employees may be unaware that they are not performing at the appropriate level. Communication also helps with transparency, if you are communicating with your team, they feel more involved and less likely to think you are hiding things from them or being secretive. No matter how busy you are as a supervisor, communication is time well spent.
- Enforce Zero Tolerance:
Clearly demonstrate to employees that illegal discrimination is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. When violations do occur, take immediate action to correct the situation and prevent recurrence.
- Support Diversity:
Acknowledge the uniqueness of different perspectives and lead your staff in accepting diversity as a positive, life‑enriching experience. It is also important to appreciate and encourage diversity through personnel actions. Always seek quality and diversity.
- Seek Early Resolution and Take Advantage of ADR:
Resolve complaints at the earliest possible moment by bringing parties together to help understand and settle their differences. Keep in mind that ADR is a perfect tool for resolving disputes and avoiding future complaints. While ADR can be offered in response to a complaint, it does not limit a manager from taking advantage of ADR earlier. Employees may approach management requesting assistance regarding a concern. This may be a perfect opportunity to use ADR to resolve the matter‑before it turns into a complaint or grievance.
- Hold Subordinates Accountable:
Hold employees accountable for their actions. Employees must understand the expectations of the managers from both a performance and conduct standpoint. Allowing poor performance or ignoring inappropriate conduct will only make your vulnerable as a manager. When managers do not address poor performance or do not address inappropriate or unprofessional behavior, employees will feel that such behavior is tolerated or condoned. Failing to hold employees accountable becomes a feeding ground for EEO complaints, especially complaints of harassment.
What other strategies have you employed, or have advised managers to implement?