HR Chronicles: Employees are Smart!

Very smart to be honest! I’m not sure how many employers/managers have been in this predicament or have been exposed to such cases; but some individuals are smarter than we may think. Put any employee in a “fight or flight” situation, and you’ll learn exactly how smart they are.

In the past few weeks, I have been handling situations where employees are disciplined or on the verge of termination. And !BAM! all of a sudden they need to go out on a medical leave. How often do you know this to happen? It happens very often and you may not even realize.

There are the employees that are simply just smart, and then there’s the ones that are coached. The smart employees are the ones that have enough years of experience and are “hip to the game”. They’re also the same ones that read the employee handbook front to back and later use it against the employer [hence the reason why employers shouldn’t go deep into detail in their employee handbooks].

Now your coached employees, although they may not have the necessary knowledge and experience; they are the ones going to give you the hardest time. These coached employees, have either spoken to a close friend and/or family member with knowledge on employment practices or they have sought out legal aid.

Unfortunately, if the employee’s medical documentation checks out and they are eligible for the leave – the employer must grant the request. If it is a job protected leave, the employer cannot terminate while the employee is on leave. So what’s this employee doing with all this “free time”? While this isn’t usually the case, but when an employee is out on leave they could be using that time to find new employment (definitely has happened with me in the past).

I have been in situations where employees were placed on leave, and after the 12 weeks or so they don’t return to work or resign at the time they’re due to return to work. This process [in my opinion] is like a “reverse constructive discharge”. Normally, the employer would put the employee in a position that would make them uncomfortable enough to resign. With the employee in “control” of the situation, a financial burden and an undue hardship may arise. Theres uncertainty in the air.

If the employer wasn’t planning on terminating the employee, and the employee doesn’t return to work – depending on the position, there may be some kind of hardship. If the employee was in a key role or hard to fill position, hiring or even promoting someone from within can be difficult.  Two things can happen: someone will temporarily have to step into that role or the duties within that role goes unperformed (I doubt the latter). The results aren’t good for employers and the colleagues that are left to pick up the additional work. It’s added stress, a decrease in moral, and depletes resources.

The moral behind this post: It’s easier to “Hire, Train, Retain”. Work with your difficult employees and focus on fostering positive relationships. Most importantly, don’t underestimate your employees capabilities. Always be prepared for the unexpected!


  1. Akilah

    Accurate ! Sometimes employers don’t realize how much they may hurt themselves by the details in the handbook. It’s like providing the employees with ammunition.

    Good read

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