This week's controversy regarding the termination of former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel from her broadcasting position before she started work raises many issues concerning politics in the workplace (which will invariably be front and center this election year). But one non-political issue relating to Ms. McDaniel's ouster is a somewhat basic but important employment premise: it is management – not the employees – who should ordinarily make employment-related decisions. This notion may seem simple at first, but it may be overlooked in favor of the misguided idea that giving employees self-determination (including the right to select their colleagues) might promote employee retention and improve morale.  

Perhaps (the thinking goes) if employees are encouraged to make impactful decisions - not just decisions about the brand of coffee in the kitchen or which floating holiday to celebrate, but real decisions regarding the management of the enterprise - it will make an employee more loyal, committed, and hard-working. There is nothing wrong with giving some employees responsibility for making decisions or in seeking their input, something that naturally accompanies most jobs. But some business decisions cannot be crowdsourced because doing so effectively cedes the process of dealing with or directing people, which is the definition of the term “management”. Imagine a business that hires, promotes, and pays an individual based solely upon their popularity with other employees? Employment by popular consensus might be the subject of some successful reality TV shows, but the very real intersection of law and business won't sustain this approach.

There are a few reasons employees should not necessarily dictate to management the hiring and other employment decisions they will and won’t tolerate. First, the employment relationship is premised on supervision: a manager must be able to tell an employee how to do a job or perform a service (within legal confines, of course). Even the CEO is duty bound to follow the direction of the CEO's manager - the board of directors. Second, allowing employees to vote their co-workers off the proverbial workplace island might seem like a good way to empower the workforce, but that approach could quickly lead to chaos (who is queen of the hill today?) as well as an uber-clique group of individuals distracted by their desire to win a daily popularity contest rather than serve the business’s interests. Finally, and most significantly, despite the best workforce training, not every individual will understand or appreciate the intense legal regulation of the employment relationship. Even trained human resource and legal professionals occasionally have difficulty discerning how to apply the multitude of Federal, state, and local laws in every circumstance. Individuals who lack this training, no matter the motivation, can easily make a misstep that could put the business in legal jeopardy.

With all of this said, employers should not necessarily dismiss the feedback they may receive from employees about other employees – whether in the formal process (such as performance evaluations) – or informally, such as through internal grievance processes. That information can be very valuable (and in fact critical) to employers when making employment decisions or taking necessary actions to correct violations of company policies or similar infractions. Further, employers should always consider the fact that employees have both a voice and a choice – both of which can be exercised to the employer’s detriment if an employee decides to leave employment.

So while employers should not be quick to turn off listening mode, setting aside the political ramification of the decisions concerning Ms. McDaniel's ouster in response to what appears to be the outcry by employees, businesses should consider how best to resist the urge to crowdsource employment decisions, no matter the motivation.