This post is for readers in the United States of America. As everyone knows, we’re a very litigious society, and litigation is not only expensive, but also it’s time consuming, and it fosters a great deal of negativity. You want to avoid it even when you can win. In my experience, much work-related litigation can be avoided. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
- Build close, positive relationships with employees. This is the single most impactful thing you can do to avoid litigation. People who have close, positive relationships are likely to work through problems without resorting to legal remedies.
- Build trust with employees. As you know, trust is the cornerstone of every good relationship. But it’s important enough to merit a separate place on this list.
- Operate at a high level of transparency.
- Do what you believe to be morally and ethically right. Don’t make decisions or take actions unless you’d be pleased to defend them publicly.
- Faithfully enliven the standards you’ve established.
- If someone has been treated unfairly (it happens occasionally), own it, apologize, and fix it.
Don’t try to get away with things. This is the number one reason employers become defendants. Some executive or department head wants to do something that’s not in accordance with established regulations or laws, or with a contract (union contract, employment contract – whatever), or with the articulated values of the organization.
You know what I’m talking about. Someone wants to ensure a male gets a certain job. Someone wants to fire an employee, but she hasn’t built the proper case. Someone wants to avoid honoring a commitment to an employee or to a customer. I’m sure you can add to this list.
Efforts to avoid litigation in these types of cases include hiding information, creating plausible – but untrue – explanations for actions, or relying on fear of retaliation.
The best way to avoid litigation is to honor your contractual obligations, honor your commitments, obey applicable laws, and enliven your organization’s values. It’s part of acting morally and ethically.
If you do the first item on the “Do” list and don’t do the only item on the “Don’t” list. You’ll reduce the number of times you wear the title, “Defendant”.
Thanks for reading. As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.