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Are Dementors Driving You Demented?

Now that's like Miss Jean Brodie I am in my Prime (and intend to stay there until I’m at least on the shady side of 75),I look dispassionately at today’s young people and feel sorry for them. The problem is they are being shuttled between extremes. So many of them have had it far too easy as children. Time-poor adults find it hard to set boundaries and want to be friends rather than undertaking the much tougher job of parenting. They give their children everything. The small child pushes the boundaries (and some become big monsters, including most of my own nephews and nieces) and they evolve into little princes and princesses with attitude. This upbringing does not equip them well to enter the adult world and they eventually either have to adapt or suffer. Some even have a sort of early quarter life depressive crisis as they discover the brutal fact that life’s not fair and no amount of bawling and kisses from mummy will alter that.

Social trends and problems inevitably wash into the workplace and employers end up dealing with this. One of the most common time wasters in the workplace these days are employees whose performance or conduct is poor and the employer seeks to manage them. So often the employee alleges bullying and harassment, goes off sick with stress and takes no responsibility for his or her actions.

I recently had to deal with a staggeringly stupid individual. Among other things this young woman, in her early 20s and in her first real job, alleged many other things that her boss publicly humiliated her with tellings-off over spelling and other errors in documents sent out. The errors were admitted, by the way. When I asked who had been present the employee said there were no witnesses! And seemed disgruntled when I said if there were no witnesses it could scarcely be said to be public. The grievance was very long on “I feel this …” and “I think that …” but like Rhett Butler before me, frankly, my dear, I don’t give much of a damn about what you think unless it’s evidenced. I don’t discount feelings altogether but evidently it’s much lower down the food chain than concrete facts. On the facts available there was no evidence at all about bullying. There was copious evidence that the employee was incompetent, careless and actually rather vicious and that it was wholly appropriate to discipline, which is what the employer had been seeking to do. Even the union rep (a decent bloke who did his job very reasonably was noticeably not persuaded by the employee’s posturing's) pointed out to her that employers have a right to ask employees to meet workplace standards and a duty to draw it to their attention if they don’t meet them.

After I issued the findings I received a hissy email saying that I was obviously the employer’s poodle. While tempted to say “Woof!” and leave it at that, all I can do is point at the wall of evidence that the young woman is a disaster. This has all come off out of the employee’s view that she is the most precious little lambkin in the world.

These types of people are the Dementors of the employment world. Boring, time wasting and attention seeking, they can really damage your business if left untackled. I can’t turn such people into great employees (not overnight anyway),but I can cut the situation down to size so we have a sensible conversation. If you have a Dementor in your workplace and you’re wondering what to do, get in touch. We’ll sort it out.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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