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Don’t hire people who lack good critical judgment

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on April 28, 2024.

All of us are familiar with bosses who are incapable of exercising common sense and good critical judgment. I again write about this subject due to its importance.

On April 16, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that Gregg Orr Auto Collection, Inc., a Texas-based company, agreed to pay $325 thousand to settle a lawsuit that claimed the company fired a 65-year-old employee, who had been with the company for seven years, to avoid the cost of paying for his ongoing cancer treatment. The company replaced that employee with a much younger employee. 

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted EEOC officials who stated, “[The employee] ‘rushed back to work’ against his doctor’s recommendation ‘because he had seen (the company) push workers with medical conditions or older workers out of the company in favor of younger workers or individuals needing less medical care.’”

If the employee was a poor performer, that should have been well documented. The time to part company with them was not when they returned from cancer surgery. This is a company whose success relies on the goodwill and trust of its employees and customers. The company certainly didn’t exercise good critical judgment. 

An April 11 article in Scoop tells of an employee who wrote on Reddit that he worked a shift that began at 7:30 a.m. Friday and did not end until 3:15 a.m. Saturday. His boss accused him of defrauding the company three minutes of work time because he left to go home at 3:12 am on Saturday after his shift. The employee said that “the boss made me aware that I could be fired for it.”

How did the employee respond? He started to “work to rule.” Rather than his usual practice of clocking 20 minutes early for each shift, he clocked in exactly on time. When his fellow employees learned what occurred, they also worked to rule, causing a reduction in productivity.

There are many instances of bosses in all organizations acting in a similar manner. Why are they still in decision-making positions? The organizational hierarchy these bosses report into are filled with people who also lack common sense and good critical judgment.

Photo credit: Peter Stark | Getty Images

A September 2018 article in The Washington Post headlined, “Homeless D.C. high school football player kept off field amid questions over eligibility,” tells about student Jamal Speaks, who was ruled ineligible to play football because he did not have a permanent residence.

Due to family issues, Speaks was staying at various homes of his friends while maintaining a solid grade point average and holding down a part-time job. According to The Washington Post article, due to the lack of a permanent residence, the principal of his school threatened to fire the coach if he let Speaks play.

After receiving support from fellow students, teammates, coaches and fans, Speaks was ultimately allowed to play after a favorable ruling by one of the two governing bodies on athletics within the D.C. school district. Should the principal have been disciplined for exhibiting such poor common sense and lack of good critical judgment? 

A May 2005 CNN article headlined “Cell-phone student back at school after suspension” is about a Columbus Georgia high school student who violated school policy for speaking to his mother on his cell phone. She was deployed in Iraq.

The student had not been able to speak with his mother for a month because she had been on a mission, and when the student saw that it was his mother who was calling him, he answered his phone. 

After the school received a huge amount of criticism from the public, the school board reduced the student’s 10-day suspension. His suspension should have never happened once school officials learned that he was speaking to his mother who was stationed in a war zone. 

Empathy is a key leadership trait. The school officials who suspended the students did not act as leaders. They acted as bureaucrats blindly following the rules. 

So, why do decision makers act in this manner? Are they afraid of being punished by those above them in the hierarchy, who also exercise poor critical judgment? Leaders should celebrate direct reports who violate the rules when it makes sense.

Never hire individuals into decision-making positions who are incapable of using common sense and exercising good critical judgment, or prevent their direct reports from doing so. 

Stan Silverman is founder of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at stan@silvermanleadership.com.

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