Back in March, I wrote about the revival of Will & Grace, though we all know it is really the Jack & Karen show. Over the years, we have seen the softer side of Karen Walker, which lies far (really far) below the surface of her martini-swilling, insult-slinging, pill-popping, Botox veneer. In the series revival, we have seen Karen’s seemingly uncaring façade crumble when faced with the untimely loss of her beloved Rosario and Jack’s decision to secretly date a married man. One thing has not changed with Karen—she is an absolutely terrible employee.
Since Season 1 in 1998, we have known Karen as Grace’s wealthy socialite assistant, who brings a long list of contacts to the table but no work ethic. Despite the constant zingers about Grace’s wardrobe and her personal life, Grace has kept Karen around as a long-time employee who keeps her “pretty little” paychecks in a shoebox instead of cashing them. From encouraging Grace to romantically pursue her own employee to continuing to do nothing productive at work, Karen remains the delightful anti-employee we have come to know and love.
While Karen’s shenanigans make for entertaining TV, a real-life Karen in the workplace would be a disaster in the making. It goes without saying that actual employers would be incredibly foolish (at the very least) to turn a blind eye to Karen’s substance abuse and sexual innuendo. Here are some additional employer tips for preventing a Karen in your own office:
- Performance Appraisals: Supervisors must give honest and timely performance appraisals that are recorded accurately. Providing the employee the opportunity to comment in writing on a performance appraisal may help avoid a later claim that the appraisal was unfair, inaccurate, or that the employee never received it.
- Disciplinary Action: Any corrective action should be done promptly, documented in writing, and delivered with an appropriate management witness. Employers should periodically review their disciplinary practices to ensure these steps are followed and that disciplinary actions are done consistently.
- Termination: Prior to terminating an individual’s employment, employers should carefully review the personnel file to ensure that performance appraisals and disciplinary actions support the termination decision. Employers should also evaluate whether other employees who have engaged in similar misconduct were disciplined in the same manner. Otherwise, employers may face employee morale issues and potential litigation alleging disparate treatment.
If your disciplinary policies and practices have not been evaluated in a while, now is the time. You do not want to wait until litigation and have your legal counsel channel his/her inner Karen by asking, “Honey, what is this? What’s going on here?”