Marana lawyer Thom K. Cope wrote a book that he hopes decreases the need for his legal services.
“How Not to be a Stupid Manager,” (available at Amazon at tinyurl.com/k9huqjv). which Cope self-published through Amazon CreateSpace in August, is full of advice to keep workplace supervisors from being sued for discrimination.
The book tells managers how to protect themselves while providing an efficient workplace, taking them from the interview process through issues such as promotions to discipline and termination.
Cope, who specializes in employment litigation at Mesch, Clark & Rothschild, channels 41 years of experience into the 192-page book. He doles out conversational, matter-of-fact advice, bolstered by anecdotes of managers who have made poor choices on the job.
We spoke to Cope, 65, about what he wanted to accomplish with the book.
Q: You have some examples of managers behaving badly in your book. Did it feel good to vent?
A: It wasn’t really so much venting. The examples I give were meant to be instructive to the reader as opposed to preaching at them. If I give someone an example, it’s more effective than just telling people, “Don’t sexually harass anybody.”
Q: Your title would indicate that you’ve met plenty of stupid managers.
A: There are a lot of stupid managers. I was trying to write a book that educates supervisors, managers and human resources professionals, to help save them from discrimination complaints and lawsuits that could cost the company a lot of money.
Q: How harmful are those cases to businesses?
A: Legal cases are not cheap. They not only cost the company a lot of money, but there’s lost time when executives, supervisors and employees need to meet me and go to court. The hidden cost a lot of employers tend to forget about is when managers are stuck in the courtroom for two days, they’re not productive. My goal in writing the book is to educate them in certain techniques … to give them winning strategies that keep them from being sued.
Q: It seems workers can get something out of the book as well.
A: There are plenty of things workers can get out of it. It’s geared for supervisors, both experienced and entry level, who don’t have or can’t afford an HR manager. This is for the office manager that handles the HR function. Employees can also get something out of this book. Not everyone understands what their rights are.
Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: What I wanted to do was cut publication time down and control the content of the book, control the editorial process of the book. The CreateSpace option was amazing. It was a great way to go, and reasonably priced. I don’t need inventory. When you order the book online, it’s printed to order. I ordered 100 books to give to clients and sell at seminars.
Q: Will you make a profit?
A: I did not write this book to make money off it. If it becomes the best-selling business book in the world, that’s great. But I wrote this because of the theory that preventing problems is better than solving them after they’ve happened. I’d rather prevent something from occurring than go in and solve a discrimination issue. I’ll get my costs back out of the book, but it’s not my retirement plan.
Q: You keep the book conversational and light on legalese. Was that tough to do?
A: It’s not written for lawyers. It’s for ordinary people who may or may not have a high school education — managers and supervisors who worked their way up and are good with people but don’t have training.
Q: Are you still shocked by the carelessness you see in managers?
A: I’m not really sure that anything that could come up in the workplace would actually shock me or surprise me that much. It’s not that I’ve seen it all. What goes on really doesn’t surprise me. Some things that really irk me are things that are so commonsensical. If people halfway thought about what they were actually doing, they wouldn’t do them. Should you really take a picture of a woman’s butt and put it on the bulletin board? If they thought about the consequences, they wouldn’t.