In prior posts we have discussed the need for partners or managers to get their thoughts together prior to meetings with employees. This is especially true if there is a need to engage in disciplinary actions or remedial training measures. Often, it naturally becomes a situation where one partner/manager is the “bad cop” delivering the harshest part of the news or taking the harder line, at least. Usually the determination of which person is the bad cop is dependent on which partner has particular responsibility for the job function or task at issue. The “good cop” gets to provide perspective and an outlet to soften the blow. We’ve all seen this in police shows, but the phenomenon is, whether natural or planned, often used in work environments or in other ways (shopping for a major purchase, such as a car, comes to mind). There is nothing inherently devious about such techniques, in fact, in my opinion it is better than more than 1 manager “coming down” on an employee in a disciplinary proceeding. And, the technique can be very useful in arresting (pun intended) inappropriate behavior or events in the work place.
Contrary to popular belief, I am not always the “bad cop” counterpart to my partner’s “good cop.” In fact, we have had a few, admittedly very few, employees over the years who find me easier to work with than my partner. As I always tell our clients, all trial lawyers who delight in asking me whether I have worked on any cases as big as theirs, whether my staff and I are up to the challenge of working on their case, etc., I run a very tight ship, a very tight ship indeed. I have zero tolerance for employees’ insubordination, incompetence, or any behavior that is not done in the best interests of our clients, my corporation, and my partner and me. For these reasons, I am usually the “bad cop” when it comes to correcting employees on their job performance. However, when it comes to the more typical human resources function, such as disciplinary actions and terminations, I have rarely handled these situations, preferring my partner to assume the “bad cop” role. In many instances involving termination of employees, I am not even in the office, due to my travel schedule, such that my partner does the firing without any help from me. As with anything that provokes anger or another negative emotion, I usually try to have a cooling off period prior to counseling an employee about his/ her performance. However, there have been plenty of times when someone does something harmful that requires immediate action. On these occasions, and they have been rare, my partner and I decide how we are going to take care of the problem and who will take each role within the “good cop, bad cop” dichotomy. However it turns out, we are a formidable force to be reckoned with!