Periodically, we ask three HR pros how they’d handle a difficult situation at work. Today’s issue: An employee, upset at his termination, leaks his salary info to his colleagues — and causes mayhem. 

“I thought firing Dave Gunter would solve our problems, not create more,” said supervisor Maureen Braun.

Maureen had asked to speak with HR?manager Stu Capper in Stu’s office.

“I thought so, too,” said Stu. “What happened?”

Angry and betrayed employees

“So we fired Dave last Friday, right?” continued Maureen. “He clearly wasn’t thrilled.”

“No, but we handled things as well as we could, I thought,” said Stu.

“Now I come in this morning to this bombshell: Dave told a lot of his co-workers what his salary was just before he left,” said Maureen.

“Aha,” said Stu. “And that would be a problem because Dave was making a lot more than his colleagues.”

“Bingo,” said Maureen. “You remember that he had a lot of great experience and that we saw him as a potential member of upper management down the line.”

“Well, I think our decision to fire him was right and will stand up in court – we have loads of documentation about his poor performance and his inability to work on a team,” said Stu.

“Now we just have to deal with a department full of angry employees,” said Maureen sarcastically. “These are people who’ve been loyal to us – and now they’re feeling betrayed.

“What am I going to do?” she asked.

If you were Stu, what would you say or do next?

What your peers had to say

An HR manager from New Jersey

What she would do: I?wouldn’t focus on Dave when addressing employees.

Instead, I’d sit down with staff in the department and explain industry standards. I’d also remind them that our company takes pride in offering competitive wages with excellent benefits.

Reason: Dave is no longer with the company, so there’s no point in mentioning him or his actions.

As for current employees, explaining that we stand behind our salaries because they’re competitive and our review process because it’s fair and consistant will hopefully quell their concerns.

A director of HR from Wisconsin

What he would do: I’d call a meeting with the employees in the department and explain our system for determining salaries.

After laying out our policy, I’d use a few examples of employees in the company (though?I wouldn’t use their names) to show staff where they’re placed on the pay scale and why.

Reason: Honesty is the best policy here. Being transparent about our policy should clear the air after Dave’s vengeful act.

A VP of HR from Oklahoma

What she would do: There’s not a whole lot HR can do under the law.

The most we’d do is have a conversation with staff apologizing for Dave’s actions.

Reason: The last thing you want to do is go into a defensive mode where you need to defend what everyone in the company makes. We all know that, under the National Labor Relations Act, staffers are allowed to discuss their salaries in the workplace. It’s a bad position to be in, but apologizing and moving on is the best thing to do.

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