In The Workplace

Marco (not his real name) resigned from Company A to join Company B. During his stay with B, he was often heard criticizing A for its bad management practices, including its tax evasion activities. After a year, Company B merged with Company C as the surviving entity. This resulted in the loss of many jobs, including the one held by Marco. Without a job, he reapplied with Company A and was rehired as a regular employee without much vetting. After three months, Marco’s boss discovered from a former employee of B how he disparaged Company A. What are Company A’s options against Marco? — September Morn.

There’s a story about a mechanic who converted to Christianity during the early years of Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. He became a devout follower of Christ and desired to correct his many wrongs in the factory. He had been stealing car parts and tools for many years. The morning after his baptism and conversion, he returned all the parts and tools back to his employer.

He explained the situation to his foreman and asked for forgiveness. The foreman consulted the human resource (HR) department on what to do about the case as there was no precedent for it. Immediately, HR cabled all details to Henry Ford, who was then visiting a European plant.

Mr. Ford immediately returned a cable with a decision: “Convert all workers into Christianity and baptize all believers as soon as you can.”

When a worker, regardless of their job, wants to change for good reason, religious or otherwise, the situation becomes a stressful, but a “welcome” development for management. Indeed, change is hard work for everyone. But if the change is worth the effort, it becomes easier for all. On the other hand, if change is unnecessary or does not work, it becomes harder for people to accept.

Looking back, maybe Marco was trying to win the sympathy of Company B, his current employer at the time. And for good reason. After all, he has a legitimate and reasonable complaint against Company A for its “bad management practices and tax evasion activities” assuming they are accurate. Was it for Marco to warn Company B? We don’t know.

Knowing the intentions of Marco will help you devise the most effective solution. So, what can you do about it? Think hard enough about the adverse implications should you decide to confront Marco. After all, your management is not exactly without clean hands. Marco may have something against your company that you may have not properly understood. It’s not so much about bad management practices, which can be subject to debate at times. But what if he is in possession of legal documents to prove his allegations about the tax issues?

You have to put everything in proper perspective. Even when you charge him with betrayal and terminate his employment, you may be bringing the company into an awkward situation because Marco could file a case for illegal dismissal. Worse, it could result in bringing up things that could damage your company’s reputation if Marco cites your illegal tax activities as the only reason for his dismissal.

This is not to say you should continue with your illegal ways. It may not be easy. But one thing is for sure, you don’t want to escalate the situation. That’s probably not what you want.

It’s better not to rock the boat. Instead, monitor Marco’s work performance in case he offers cause for commendation. Assure him that you will support his career ambitions. Proceed to work with him positively. No matter what, don’t raise the issue of how he badmouthed the company, as you would be required to prove your case. Anyway, the past is the past. You don’t have to live there.

At the same time, correct your own internal issues as well. Do it quietly, without being noticed by the workers including Marco. Simultaneously, start a two-way communication process with employees that may include an annual satisfaction survey and an excellent engagement program.

Whatever you do, your goal is to get Marco to management’s side and change his negative perception about the company. You may need to treat all workers well, and if your company can afford it, pay them a competitive package to make the work relationship more positive over the long term.

If there’s a chance, give Marco every opportunity to perform well and showcase his work achievements to others. Require him to lead teams on a temporary basis. If not, transfer him to a work situation where he can shine. Remember to reward and recognize him as a prelude to his eventual promotion or transfer to a juicy position.

This approach is very important so Marco does not take consolation in what he knows about the company’s past illegal activities. If he knows that management is sincere in dealing with him, it will help him immensely in focusing on his work.


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