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Team-building rules should be clear

Lynne Curry

Q. Our company recently held a team-building event. We paid a lot of money to transport everyone to a resort so that managers would socialize after hours. One manager ate quickly and then vanished from the dinner table and never returned. Out of concern something was wrong I knocked on his hotel room door at 9. He came to the door disheveled and drunk. I heard giggling from inside his room.

This whole situation sticks in my craw, as he should know better. Since he, in effect, wasted company money, can I discipline him for this or since it was "after hours" and we hadn't made the evening socializing mandatory do I need to let it go?

A. Your manager made a poor judgment call. He either didn't get it or ignored your unwritten expectation that retreat attendees use their time together to improve their work relationships.

On the other hand, you knocked on his hotel door after normal work hours. Before you launch any discipline, consider that you intruded on his private space and right to seclusion. He may have understood the transportation and hotel expenses as a perk and time after normal work hours as his private time. Further, many managers bow out of evening "team-building" events because they feel have had enough "togetherness" by nightfall.

If your manager's actions violated a company code of conduct or policy or affected your company's future success, you may be able to discipline him for leaving the dinner early but not for what went on in his hotel room. Moving forward, before scheduling team retreats, let managers clearly know your expectations.

Q. My boss regularly ticks me off, so I wanted to get his goat. I met one of his former employees who had infuriated my boss by starting a rival company. Since most of us in our company are Facebook friends, I "liked" the former employee's company on my Facebook account. The former employee then "liked" me back and bragged about his success because he realized others in my company would read it.

I didn't expect to get fired over this. Because this is the only reason, what are my legal options?

A. Whenever you feel unjustly fired, you can seek legal advice.

Currently, at least one "fired for 'liking' the wrong person on Facebook" case has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals. Although a lower court ruled that an employee who "liked" a boss' rival didn't deserve free speech protection, both Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union filed briefs supporting an employee's constitutional right to express his opinion by hitting the "like" button. According to Facebook, its "likes" are the "21st century equivalent of a front yard campaign sign."

Meanwhile, if you sue, you may find that more than this incident led to your firing. When employees indulge in snarky, passive-aggressive Facebook revenge against co-workers or bosses, they generally act out in other ways.

Q. One of our employees, in her 60s, has discussed with several employees her desire to retire in the next year. Given her position in this company, a lot of rumors are floating around and we need to plan for her replacement. Can we ask her about her retirement plans?

A. You take a huge risk if you ask about her plans, as she may feel you're trying to push her out the door. Instead of asking her about her plans, let her know you consider her valuable and have heard rumors. In other words, open the conversation door and let her choose whether or not to walk through.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management-employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Co. Inc. Send your questions to her at www.thegrowthcompany.com.


Lynne Curry
Management