Dealing with a skeptical boss and colleagues

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Rey Elbo-125

In The Workplace

I was hired four months ago to handle the human resource department of an upstart restaurant business. During this period, I’ve tackled many challenges in my job that I found unusual. For one, branch supervisors and managers don’t follow simple office rules on employee discipline. In case of excessive absences or tardiness on the part of cooks and waiters, branch heads don’t bother to discipline them. Several times, when HR recommends the suspension of violators, they would defend them and claim no one will be left to perform their duties, which would force the closure of the business for few days. I told them that employee discipline is important to people management that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, they don’t want to listen. I told the CEO about it, but he appears to be sympathetic with the managers who claim that the business would lose money if we are strict with people. Is there a better way of handling this problem? — Losing Proposition.

In the 1920s, bootleggers created the wine brick to circumvent the law against liquor production. The wine brick came from pressed grape concentrate and was made in the form of a brick which allowed grape farmers to sustain their livelihoods during Prohibition. On the label, this warning was printed: “Do not let this brick sit in a gallon of water for 21 days. It will ferment and become illegal wine.”

That absolved the manufacturer from violating the law and passed on the responsibility to the consumers.

What if we follow the same approach? What if we put the primary responsibility of increasing revenue on the shoulders of the branch heads? Of course, if there are absences, how could a branch sustain its operations without its people? That puts the onus on branch heads to look for solutions to their problems. They could probably maintain a list of on-call chefs and staff who could readily respond at moment’s notice in order to keep a certain branch to service dining customers.

But what if they don’t respond right away? Besides, who would want to take on on-call employment?

I’m not sure if this idea will be accepted by the branch heads or even by the CEO. Therefore, you should be prepared with data to highlight how attendance issues are adversely affecting the restaurant operations. Quantify the money the business is losing as a result of employee absences.

In case of absence or tardiness, how would they solve the issue while at the same time ensuring the smooth operations of the restaurant business? Let them analyze the whole situation with the end in view of defining a sustainable solution acceptable to everyone.

This is a challenge for HR. No matter how easy the issue is to understand, many line supervisors and managers would reject the idea of handling employee discipline. Therefore, to minimize if not eliminate the risk of their rejecting your idea of strict implementation of punctuality rules, the solutions must come from the stakeholders themselves. To avoid the complicated issue of pitting HR against the branch managers, the first step is to be prepared to counter criticism with the following approaches:

One, be your own critic by anticipating the issues that might be raised against your own ideas. Decide who must be convinced first in order for your idea to be accepted. The greater support you muster in the approval process, the greater chance that it will be implemented by all concerned. Therefore, it’s imperative that you consult everyone prior to the implementation of your attendance policy as you cannot be a one-man corporate police officer.

Whether to convince first the CEO or the branch heads depends on their management style and how you perceive their openness to accepting new ideas. After all, the close monitoring of employee attendance and their punctuality may be obsolete in certain industries. Just the same, study this very carefully with the help of all concerned.

Two, emphasize positive, instead of negative employee discipline. Assist the line supervisors and their managers in coaching and motivating people so they become friendly with their workers for the right reasons. Establish a model branch of the month that includes a model employee program.

Of course, you need a concrete was of determining winners that may include a perfect-attendance award, a revenue metric, or zero customer complaints, among other parameters. Whatever you do, seek the consensus of the branch managers. If they approve of your idea, then seek the final approval of the CEO.

Last, understand the office dynamics in the organization. Sometimes, you may have the mistaken belief that only those in the organization chart are the best people to consult. Of course, they are. However, there are many people holding various ranks in the company who possess power above and beyond their official capacity.

You may be surprised to know that even your own staff may wield influence long before you came on board. The reasons can range from their loyalty to the boss or close affiliation with some branch managers, up to personal friendships with those people who have a direct line to the CEO.

Discover the connections and you may discover the answer to your problem.

More than anything, consider knowing your blind spots as well. You may have a credibility issue that you don’t know about in the first place. This is not something that can be corrected overnight, since it’s a slow process to build considering you have only been employed for four months.

Whenever it’s practical to do, always seek the feedback of your boss and your counterparts in other departments. That way, it could be easier to pro actively correct your ways than wait for greater damage to come.


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