October 1988 The Roemer Report

Truckers Aren't Fairing Well in the Courtroom

Trucking companies lose 23% more personal injury suits than the nationwide average. An injured person in any personal injury suit will win 57% of the time. But when a trucking company or its driver is the defendant, the plaintiff wins 80% of the cases. Jury Verdict Research Inc. recently examined cases involving tractor-trailer collisions and work-related claims and found frequent six-figure damage awards for the plaintiff. Work-related claims for age discrimination, negligent hiring, and improper off-duty conduct firings are on the increase. The following articles may help you focus on actions that are necessary for proper risk management on some of these areas: "NEGLIGENT HIRING" EMERGES AS A NEW RISK: While American courts have usually held individuals responsible for their own actions, an emerging concept called "negligent hiring" now involves employers. Writing in Security Management, attorney J. Gregory Service outlines how negligence in hiring has become a liability trap for employers. There's already a body of case law that makes employers responsible for plaintiffs' injuries by employees who were unfit or dangerous. Now the negligent hiring theme is being fine-tuned by various court decisions keyed to individual cases. Some of the following guides are developing to help employers sidestep this risk: (1) A reasonable degree of care must be taken by the employer to assure that employees are fitted for the positions they are to fill. (2) Employers can be found negligent if they knew, or should have known, that an employee had "a propensity for violence." (3) Some jobs are more sensitive than others to unsafe or criminal actions by employees, and thus demand more background checking. (4) A criminal record does not necessarily make a person a negligent hiring risk for every position. Though negligent hiring appears to place unfair burdens on employers, it’s consistent with other trends in liability litigation. It means that employment processes now entail another new risk that requires proper management.

CAN YOU REALLY FIRE FOR OFF-DUTY CONDUCT? Though trucking companies have the right to fire employees for direct job-related causes, firing for off-duty conduct is a much trickier subject. Clemson professor Terry L. Leap offers startling examples of employees who were reinstated by arbitrators despite serious off-duty offenses. What's often decisive with arbitrators and courts is whether the offense really hurts the company or affects the employee's job performance. Your company's case can be weakened if you have no policy on the subject and are careless or slow in handling the matter. The real issue is the individual's right to privacy, which has been strengthened in recent years. An employee almost always wins when a constitutional right is involved, though exceptions have been made in extreme cases. Employers are also on shaky legal ground when firings are made simply because certain managers disapprove of an employee's lifestyle or radical views. Employers can walk more safely through this mine field by following Professor Leap's guidelines: (1) Have a written statement clearly outlining what comprises unacceptable off-duty conduct. (2) Develop procedures to cover cases of employees involved in crimes and awaiting trial. (3) Have a program for dealing with convicted employees who are able to return to work. (4) Prepare to deal with reactions of co-workers, etc., when persons return to work following criminal proceedings. In most cases, management's position is stronger when the off-duty offense can be shown to affect job performance.

A CHANGE MASTER'S BLUEPRINT: Since their earthshaking success six years ago within Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., have gone their separate ways. Yet today they're singing parallel management refrains: "Prepare for change...It's coming, and it will kill your business if you're not ready for it." Both have new books on the topic: Peters' is Thriving On Chaos; Waterman's, The Renewal Factor. Here are key points distilled from the two texts: (1) Recognize chaos and uncertainty as the marketing gold mines of the wise. Savvy businesses will learn to get in-and out of-fleeting market opportunities. (2) Inspire your people with causes, and commitment will follow. (3) Build teamwork and trust by listening and responding to workers closest to new opportunities. (4) Use congenial controls that allow new data to modify existing plans. (5) Empower people by delegating to them the work that they are best qualified to do. (6) Encourage your workers to balance their business and personal lives; they'll last longer and perform better as a result. (7) Teach people to see themselves in a ''different mirror" by exposing them to varied situations and problems. (8) Practice stability in motion: learn to function flexibly.

INSIDE CUSTOMER VALUE: Today's global manufacturers have come to embrace customer service as critical to their ability to differentiate themselves in the market. A new service definition has already emerged. It revolves around your own customer's perception of value. Today any of your products or services can eventually be duplicated. Here are a few of the vital elements in this new service philosophy: (1) Your Service Delivery Must Be Reliable. Keeping the service promise is a formidable, competitive weapon. Reliability is doing what you said you would do...and it is so uncommon that it adds value when it happens consistently. (2) Service Innovation Is Vital. Routinely translating the voice of your customer into the voice of your products and services fosters an image of credibility, reliability, and quality. Service innovation isn't just a new feature. It is any product or service that helps close the gap between your customer's expectation and what you can provide. Your customer satisfaction target should be constantly evolving to higher levels of expectation. By design, your products and services can't be static. (3) Differentiate Yourself By Adding Value. Leading firms such as Disney, Marriot, IBM, and ServiceMaster have two issues in common: (A) They reap higher profits because their service is perceived to be worth more, and (B) They devote assiduous attention to service detail to ensure consistently superior delivery. ServiceMaster has a chapter of instructions on dusting and the making of a bed. Disney is very specific on acceptable terminology that can be used by ride operators.

WHY MANAGERS FAIL: Managers who fail often do so because they spend more time hiding small failures than examining the reasons for their setbacks. The Center for Creative Leadership, a research firm in Greensboro, N.C., found that about 40% of the top executives they studied had suffered significant management hardship experiences. But these senior managers reached the tqp because they were ablate admit their failures and move on...always learning from the negative event. Here are several of the most common causes of self-induced management failure: (1) Poor Interpersonal Skills. Excellent managers inspire followers. When you can't win the loyalty of your followers it's usually because of poor listening and an inability to generate constructive criticism. (2) A Lack of Flexibility. Adapting to changing management situations is critical. Many management failures arise through the repetitive use of previously effective techniques that simply don't work anymore. (3) Team Talk and Selfish Action. Successful managers are authentic team players capable of selfless acts. If you focus on "how much credit," "how much money," or "how fast the promotion"...you will lead only your ego. (4) A Perspective for Failure. Unsuccessful managers often prevent a fall by avoiding action...it's safe. This inability to act...and fear of failure...is the chief reason managers are ineffective. Minor failures must be dealt with...acknowledged and studied...and left in the past so you can resound without excuses, blaming of others, or being defensive.

SKILLS OF THOSE HIGH-PERFORMANCE SALESPEOPLE: Excellent salespeople share a com­ mon trait. They project complete confidence in themselves and their product. Less obvious but no less important are their finely-honed senses of timing and humor...plus their awareness that the customer seldom says exactly what he/she wants. What other skills add up to a top-flight salesperson? Here are five essentials for sales success: (1) Realize that old customer relationships are the best sources of new business. The 80/20 rule applies here: Generally, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. People you've satisfied once are likely to buy from you again...and provide new leads, as well. (2) Brini.; something new to each call. Nothing is more tiresome-and less effective-than the same old patter every time. Keep the deal moving by offering something new at each meeting. (3) Know when to backpedal. There's a time for pushing ahead full throttle and a time for taking the pressure off. Customers are more receptive to salespeople who know the difference. (4) Remove objections gently. Super sellers didn't get that way by beating their customers into submission. They recognize the value of subtlety and use it to help customers remove their own objections. (5) Make your enthusiasm infectious. A genuine passion for your product is bound to prove contagious...provided you work at it with the above points in mind.