Burden of Proof In Management

In hierarchical organizations where managers oversee direct reports, managers hold more responsibility over others than in the free world. When it comes to issues of discipline and performance, managers hold ultimate responsibility for the behavior and accountability of their team.

Even in the workplace, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Except perhaps in cases of sexual harassment or egregious breaches in security, no one person alone usually plays an encompassing role in the burden of proof. If one or two people take issue with another employee, the burden falls on those people to make their case. A manager cannot and shall not just take the word of a few people to drive decisive action.

However, if many people in the group and across multiple teams in the organization or even customer’s organizations take issue, the burden of proof must shift from the accusers to the manager of the accused. At this point, discipline and performance ceases to be a peer to peer issue and becomes a team issue. The manager as responsible party for the team cannot wait for all of the accusers to make their case and must instead take responsibility for the investigation. If the manager waits, he or she in a hierarchical sense becomes the one solely responsible for their direct report’s shortcomings. No one remains to be blamed except the manager until the team member in question can be proven guilty. Until that happens, the manager must alone wear the target on his or her back.

If you don’t like it, distribute the management burden across the team into a self managed workplace (start by reading this book).

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Craig Ormiston’s story.