5 reasons why you might not be the boss after all

ManagementQuick question: Can you hire or fire someone?

Yes or no?

(Don’t be shy. More than 1 in 4 middle managers said in a recent ManageElite poll that they can’t fire people! More poll results further down.)

The question is meant not so much to test of your managerial prowess.

But it does offer a look at how vulnerable your organization would be if an employee accused you of discrimination.

Here’s why.

Stricter definition

For the past 20 years, courts have steadily made it easier for employees to sue for bias by a “supervisor.” The key question was always what makes someone a supervisor.

You're Fired!
Plaintiffs’ lawyers pushed for the broadest definition, pretty much anyone who could tell an employee what to do and assess how well the person did it.

That fits a lot of people, sometimes even a co-worker.

And since employers are liable for discrimination by a supervisor, that broad definition made it easier for the employee to sue and win – or at least force the company into a financial settlement.

But all that is expected to change now that U.S. Supreme Court has said that a supervisor needs to have some real authority.

The court said a supervisor must be someone who fits one of these five catagories: He or she can hire, fire, deny a promotion, significantly change an employee’s responsibilities or cut a worker’s pay/benefits.

Little recourse?

Employee advocates don’t like this stricter definition.

They claim that most bias occurs during interactions with frontline supervisors who have little authority.

So the ruling, they say, leaves most employees caught up in those kinds of circumstance with little recourse.

Time will tell. Except at ManageElite, we didn’t want to wait.

So we did quick (unscientific) poll asking 1,018 managers what level of authority they have.

Here’s the question and the answers, so you can see for yourself.

The Question: Can you hire or fire, decline an employee a promotion, transfer an employee to significantly different responsibilities or cut a person’s pay or benefits?


Breakdown by  level                           Yes              No

  • C-Level                                                 99.2%              0.8%
  • VPs                                                       90.5%              9.5%
  • Directors                                              90.4%              9.6%
  • Middle Managers                                 73.7%              26.3%
  • Frontline Managers                              63.9%              36.1%

Clearly, many frontline managers do not fit the Supreme Court definition.

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