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Leaving it Too Late

It was no surprise that once the tribunal fees were abolished that there would be a huge increase in applications to tribunal. Dealing with employment issues is complex enough without the fear of every Tom, Dick and Harriet lodging a claim.

You can do a lot to minimise your risks. My view has always been: recruit carefully, express and communicate your standards clearly, train, support and provide detailed feedback. If standards aren’t met guide, correct and if you can’t turn the situation round in a reasonable time take steps to dismiss. Act promptly and err on the side of caution when it comes to giving formal sanctions. If after a proper process and full support you can’t get an employee to meet and maintain your standards it is best to part company. Do it sooner rather than later.

I regularly come across businesses which have had horrendous times simply because they have been too nice/ tolerant/ dilatory/ busy for their own good and deferred managing an unsatisfactory employee for too long.

One firm tolerated an underperforming consultant for over two years. She had never even earned her keep. Not only is she incompetent, she is deeply unpleasant. Clients left because of her. Support staff refused to work with her because she was so offensive. When things came to a head did she accept the evidence and promise to do better? Of course not. She went sick, lodged a grievance and hightailed it to a solicitor. It took hours of their time and about £7k more than they wanted to pay to reach an agreement.

This scenario is very common. Far too many businesses assume that if they are reasonable their employees will be too. Some will – but many won’t.

I’m not advocating a brutal hire-and-fire regime. A supportive paternalistic culture is important. I would simply qualify it and say that your business must be very clear about what it expects, what will happen if there are breaches, then follow it through if it becomes appropriate to do so.

Workplace standards should be adhered to by managers. A couple of months ago I was delivering discipline training to managers in a large company. It became clear that the SMT (including the HR director) were quite often late arriving at work. Theirs is not an official flexible working regime. There is a fixed start time. The managers were simply late. How can you expect staff to arrive on time if those who are supposed to be monitoring and managing the standards don’t set a good example? Some of the managers at the meeting complained about their staff arriving late – but they are only taking the cue from the senior people. It’s a catch 22.

This company see themselves as having a gentle culture, but it’s at odds with what’s expected by employment judges. When it has a dispute that escalates to a serious stage the inconsistent application of standards will make it much harder for them to demonstrate any subsequent dismissal is fair.

Many businesses just take the hit and pay out money via a settlement agreement. But that means we are developing a willingness to reward misconduct and poor work performance. And that can’t be right. We should deal with unsatisfactory colleagues fairly and as supportively as possible. If that doesn’t work termination should be the next step. It will usually be quicker and much more cost-effective.

If you do that you can redirect the businesses’ resources to rewarding and developing the employees who work hard and loyally for you.

Take your first step to managing poor work performance.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2018 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.

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