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Is Disclosure Really Such A Big Deal?

SHAMEELA WINSTON
Well, if you are the employer, the immediate answer is a big yes, because you want to know that you can trust your team.

You want to know they have integrity.

You want to be assured in the knowledge that, whether you do a background check on them prior to their first employment, or you ran a check on them mid-career just before you promote them or put them on a very high-value professional development plan, there will be no surprises.

There were no embellishments on the CV, there were no concealed details about health, criminal and general credibility issues.

More than just wanting to know that employees have been honest, employers typically have a policy in place that if at any time in the employment relationship, information emerges that an employee concealed material facts, or overstated details and credentials in order to influence the appointment, such an employee would be dismissed.

This is exactly how it should be in any relationship. Without trust it becomes very difficult to see a clear way forward. But this disclosure should not be misconstrued as a one way concept.

Because, trust is not a one way deal either. It works best when it is mutual.

It would not be news to anyone who has been employed substantively for at least 2 years to know that employers can sometimes make verbal promises and raise expectations on the basis of what they say at the interview stage, and maybe even at the orientation stage.

Very nice things that make the employee believe that this is the best place to work. Except that these promises, or even plans if we can call them that, are not documented and signed off.

They are not enforceable because someone from either HR or Finance or Internal Audit will tell you the agreement is contrary to prevailing policy and was not issued procedurally.

But suppose that the expectations and promises were written down. In the employment letter of offer.

But then, as the weeks turned into months, the reality of the working environment became clearer to the employee – it’s a fluid job and staff do whatever needs to be done to complete the assignments, regardless of the job description you initially got, you just do what the team needs you to do.

In this flexibility and adaptability, you may even need to relocate to another part of the country to support the outstation or help the team there.

If you don’t go this extra mile, you will just get more of the abrasive treatment that you are getting used to, where supervisors talk to you anyway they can because they also get spoken to like that by their bosses.

Some verbal aggression here and

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there. Some physical aggression here and there. Depending on where you work, it’s even possible that you can be deployed to an assignment that comes in at a lower salary than what you had agreed to in the beginning.

So what? It comes with the territory. Do what it takes to survive, otherwise stay at home and go hungry. Right?

Well, not exactly. Especially not when you know about Section 26 of the Employment Act, specifically 26 (2), where the behaviours described above are declared a breach of contract. Maybe it’s debatable.

Maybe in your environment, and your industry, foul and abusive language is an accepted part of the culture.

Maybe in your organization, people are expected to multi-task and they are employed primarily for their ability to move from one task to another with minimal effort. And that is fine.

The issue here is disclosure. When you were recruiting, did you make it clear to the candidate that in this environment, these are the realities you have to live with, these are the details you need to accommodate, and there are the expectations we have of you, and these are the conditions you have to meet in order to succeed here.

You know at the interview, when the candidate asks that question about why the position is vacant? That is a good opportunity to give a well-prepared outline of the information alluded to here. Otherwise, you engage someone under false pretences.

And not only does it leave the same taste in the employees’ mouth that it would in yours as the employer if the tables were turned, not only that, but concealing these (and other kinds of details that a prospect needs to make an informed decision to take your employment offer) affects your brand value as an employer.

It makes a mockery of the value propositions displayed on the wall. It disables any efforts to cultivate a performance culture.

It drives staff turnover at the expense of succession and talent management initiatives. It flies in the face of employment law. It is unprofessional. It is not in adherence to best practice and corporate governance.

And finally, it is not worth it to maintain an operating reality that is different to the documented brand image because it makes the employer look like a dishonest entity with no integrity and undeserving of loyalty from the best performers.

Disclosure is not just about the employee. Even if we want to say it is, the onus is on the employer to cultivate a culture where disclosure is the norm.



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