Tel: 0345 644 8955 (TPS Registered)

Are Your Long-Serving Employees “Fat Filers”?

This week the UK celebrated the Queen’s achievement in becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch, overtaking Queen Victoria’s record. In a period which has seen the UK lurch left and right politically, decolonise its Empire, deploy forces across the globe, and bumble around trying to find its place in Europe, the Queen has been remarkably constant throughout. Despite her age, HRM has no intention of retiring and still seems to be enjoying her role and doing it well. The photos of her beaming at people with who she is interacting during her engagements tell a great story and who can forget her brush with 007 at the opening of the London Olympics in 2012?

What about other long-servers? Most medium-sized or large companies have them – those people who have been at the firm longer than any manager or director can remember. Some long-servers are there because they are skilled people who are willing to change with the times and have proven themselves useful assets across the generations. They choose to stay because the Company recognises their achievements, provides opportunities for progression, and keep up-to-date with what employees want from a firm.

Some are long-servers but shouldn’t be. They should have been dismissed 20 years ago, but have somehow stayed, often because no-one has ever tackled the issues. They may start off well, but then for whatever reason, performance or conduct declines. Sometimes they don’t even start particularly well. Such employees often take up a considerable amount of management time (hence the nickname “fat filers”),but they don’t quite get to the point of dismissal.

What goes wrong? Some managers say that they have to remain on sufficiently good terms to request the employee to work overtime periodically and if the manager starts the discipline process the employee can and will refuse. It may be the manager has had a negative experience when trying to correct a problem. I was once furiously attacked (verbally) by a long serving poor performer simply for referring to a clearly evidenced problem as a “problem”. We hadn’t even started down the road of getting things right – and this was only an informal discussion. Her rant was picturesque and lengthy – and from my point of view tedious and timewasting. I can accept that employees don’t like to have poor performance etc reviewed and may well find it challenging, especially if things have been that way for a long time and nothing has officially been said before. I don’t accept that the organisation has to live with under-performance indefinitely. I also take the view that employees are part of the change process and have to take some responsibility for that.

When an employee loses her temper and verbally attacks a manager simply for raising the question, it’s not a major surprise that many will metaphorically tip toe round difficult employees. We come across people like this reasonably regularly. I often wonder why they remain because in many cases they complain bitterly about all aspects of the workplace and they’re clearly not happy.

People who are not performing are a drain on the workplace. It may seem easier to let sleeping dogs lie in the hope they do their work, keep quiet and don’t cause any trouble. The longer it gets left, the more difficult – and probably more expensive – it will be to sort out. Unless the individual commits an act of gross misconduct you will end up paying out for redundancy or a settlement payment. The lesson is not to bury your head in the sand. Deal with a problem when it arises or it will bite you in the end.

If you want to deal with your fat filers, get in touch.

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

Subscribe to our free monthly HR newsletter. Russell HR Consulting employment law newsletters are emailed automatically to our ever-growing number of subscribers every month.

Got any HR queries?

Contact us