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  • Writer's pictureDealerPILOT HR

The Challenge of Reasonableness

Do you sometimes feel like a contortionist trying to bend and flex through doing what's right for the business, and doing what's right for your people?

You do not need to, they are often the same thing (just maybe in disguise).

The measure of reasonablness is intended to ensure that there is fair treatment of everyone but still providing the opportunity to embrace that each situation has an element of uniqueness to it. It also reminds us that we do have a business to run after all.

When dificult situations arise, we often have an initial reaction that impairs our ability to develop a long game that provides the best solution for everyone.

There are many situations and "clauses" that involve a measure of reasonableness. What does that actually mean anyway? Reasonable to whom? Under what conditions? For how long? Well, sadly the answer to that is another HR favorite- It depends!

What may be reasoanable to do for 3 days, isn't reasonable to continue for 3 weeks. What may be reasonable as a solution for a part-time employee, may not work for the same situation when the postition is a dept. head. This is why assessing each situtation based on it's individual merits is so important.

The answers often reside in the details. This requires a sincere discussion, sometimes some tough parameters, and balancing things with an open mind.

Ensuring that decisions are made with concrete facts (not heresay), solid supporting docuemntation (not text messages) and a clear timeline (always have a follow up) are key elements of meeting the intent of reasonableness.

All too often I hear of situations where a warm hearted employer has not taken action because they are trying to be "generous" with an employee who is struggling in some capacity. Is avoiding the topic truly reasonable? Are you setting the person (and the dealership) up for future success? Probably not.

I also hear of situations that are the opposite. The knee-jerk reaction that says if someone isn't fully functioning, fully attending and operating at their maximum potential means it must be time for them to move on. The same questions apply-is that truly reasonable?Are you setting the person (and the dealership) up for future success? The answer is also probably not.

Here are some guidelines to ensure that the decisions you make (and the course of action you follow) are considered reasonable:

1) Was there a conversation about WHAT is occurring, WHEN it can/needs to change, WHY it is happening, HOW you can assist in improvement and WHERE they need to be?

2) Was there a clear time frame given for next steps (and ensuring those next steps are clear too)?

3) Were the consequences (good and bad) of not meeting (or meeting) the requirements of those steps laid out (documented)?

4) Were those next steps SMART goals- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound?

5) Did the decision-maker seek to have the full scope of information? Depending on the instance this may include input from the employee, a 3rd party such as a medical practitioner, other involved persons such as co-workers and maybe even an SME such as HR, JHSC or a Supervisor.

Whenever you think your decisions about people could be construed as unreasonable, ask yourself some "gut check" questions:

  • What is the reason I am going to proceed with this decision/conclusion?

  • If the tables were turned, would this still make sense to me?

  • Does this align with the culture, vision and reputation of the delaership?

  • Would an external body think it is reasonable too (courts, arbitrators, medical experts, etc)?

  • Does it pass the logic test and take into account the whole picture?

  • Is there someone qualified to check in with that may give me some added perspective?

Reasonableness is a broad and vague topic. It can also be highly subjective, but it is none-the-less a real measure in today's work world and warrents time and effort to get it right.

Remember being reasonable doesn't mean either giving-in or holding fast to your own opinion. It means assessing, measuring and following up (and following through) by everyone involved, to do what is right for the peron, the dealership and the unique situation that you are trying to manage.

Do you need help with a hard decision or difficult situation? Our Advisory Team help dealerships navigate these types of challenges every day. For more information on the services our advisors provide, contact us at

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