Employers may frequently outline the tasks and responsibilities that are expected of employees. However, rarely do employers consider also outlining the behaviors and attitudes expected of their employees. These can be just as, if not more, important. For example, during the interview process, employers are frequently looking to hire a “good fit” for their company and may pass over an applicant who seems to be otherwise. If that individual then makes a claim that he or she was passed over because of his or her race or age, an employer who is not able to counter that claim by clearly articulating why that individual was not a “good fit” only feeds into the individual’s claim that the action was discriminatory.
A similar situation can occur when a high-performing, but toxic employee is let go because he or she did not “fit in” due to their negative nature. Such an employee may then bring a lawsuit claiming that his or her performance was stellar, and therefore, he or she must have been terminated for a discriminatory reason. Being able to demonstrate why that individual did not “fit in” by showing and articulating the company’s core values and contrasting those values with the former employee’s actions can provide a strong defense to that claim.
Overall, expected behaviors and attitudes are best implemented through a written company values statement and in encouraging an active, company-values driven culture at the business. Ownership, integrity, resourcefulness, creativity, having fun, contribution, and other values, when defined, identify the characteristics of individuals who would be a “good fit” and could succeed at that company. Conversely, employers can use defined values and cultural standards to fire and performance manage the employees who aren’t “fitting in.” A company that establishes and consistently follows through on its values and culture helps itself by creating defenses to certain legal claims and can even preventing situations which might lead to claims by hiring and performance managing based on the company’s values.