A couple of early comments to our “Zero Tolerance” post earlier this week drew our attention because of the insights shared. We think that these two comments can be a central point around which an educational discussion/debate can coalesce.
Lisa Hutchin, Contractor – Labor Relations in Sacramento, CA:
“I think we can have a zero tolerance policy, but that doesn’t absolve management from the obligation to use some good common sense. This is an area where we have completely gone bonkers. It’s the ‘go to the freezer and get the pizza dough’ mentality. Without using a reasonable person standard and common sense, zero tolerance policies become the escape for anyone who doesn’t want to have to make a decision (“It says so RIGHT HERE. I don’t have a choice”).
I have seen this problem escalate over the years and have to wonder what we have gotten ourselves into. Whatever happened to mitigation, for example? Managers get a pretty decent paycheck for using their heads and yet they either use the zero tolerance policy as an excuse not to or they’re afraid of the repercussions of standing up for their decisions. Whatever happened to conducting a full and complete investigation before making a decision – as in, use your head?
For example, schools and businesses should have a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence. That doesn’t mean you suspend an eight year old for chewing his pop tart into an “L” shape. Nor does it mean that AutoZone should terminate an employee who ran out to his car, grabbed his firearm and stopped an armed robbery.”
Lisa Chase, HR futurist in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area:
“What is tolerated within an organization is the problem of the managers and executives. I think the ‘reasonable person’ should become a general guideline. If a reasonable person finds actions, speech, or behavior offensive then it is and must be dealt with. We have proven, I think, over the years since the civil rights era that legislation does not stop discrimination. But each successive generation has become less tolerant of it in themselves and others.
Overt acts must be dealt with. Clear policies regarding harassment and discrimination must be on record. Training must be provided and managers must step up to the challenge when faced with these situations. The only way to eliminate this behavior is to make it intolerable within the organization. Regardless of legislation. Discrimination and harassment isn’t wrong because it is illegal – it is wrong because it is cruel.”