A few years ago the company I was with was on the point of terminating an employee whose performance and attitude were significant problems to the direction the company wanted to go. The employee had been disciplined a few times and knew things were not going in the right direction. So what did he do? Instead of focusing on changing his attitude and improving his performance, he went on short-term disability for mental health issues. He had a doctor’s note telling us he would be off indeterminately. No other information, no dates, no back to work time frames. Just believe us the doctor was telling us.
It’s a touchy issue for human resources. Approaching a case like this requires that we respect an employees privacy and their right to short-term disability programs. But on the other hand it’s important to ensure that costly programs like these are not abused and are available to employees that truly require them.
We knew for a fact this employee was bluffing, playing his poker hand daring us to play our’s so he could file a wrongful dismissal case. Our answer was to be patient and look for the tell signs. We asked for an independent medical evaluation or IME. We sent the employee a registered letter to his home and told him that he must attend the scheduled IME and that we would pay for his time while he attended. The employee called and claimed harassment. We pointed to our employer rights. The conclusion: The employee resigned leaving us the opportunity to hire someone more skilled and with a better attitude.
So when employees play HR poker, trust your gut instincts be patient and call their bluffs. There are many approaches and tools available to us and it’s important that our employees know we will use them when necessary. How good is your poker face?