How to Deal with an Employee’s Difficult Attitude

Sometimes, as a Manager, you might have to deliver some bad news to one of your employees. You may have to tell someone that their job is redundant, or discuss some poor performance or unacceptable behaviour. The topic under discussion may be a sensitive issue. Some employees could react negatively, by becoming upset, angry or verbally abusive. There are several things that you can do, as their manager, to ensure that the meeting remains productive.

Remain calm. It is your responsibility to achieve a successful outcome to the meeting and this can be done only if you remain calm and refrain from bringing your own feelings into play.

Let the employee ‘vent’. It is important that the employee calms down. However, allowing the employee some time to vent his or her anger or frustration, gives them space and a feeling of being listened to. They may also reveal information that may help in finding a resolution to the problem.

Remember the reason for the meeting. It is easy for the employee to veer into other topics if he or she feels uncomfortable, or is looking for excuses for his or her behaviour. To get back on track, you should remind them of the reason for the meeting and the ideal outcome.

Remember that the issue needs to be dealt with. When faced with a difficult attitude, you might be tempted to postpone the meeting in the hope that the employee will calm down. However, this can make both parties lose sight of the issue. Don’t postpone the meeting simply because the employee is not being receptive.

Inform the employee that his or her attitude does not assist the organisation as a whole. If the issue being discussed is the employee’s misconduct, you could explain to the employee that his or her difficult attitude in the meeting mirrors his or her behaviour in the workplace. This may help the employee to reflect on his or her behaviour and calm down.

Following the Meeting

After the conversation, you should keep the momentum going. Achieving a successful outcome is an ongoing, building process. Failing to keep on top of the issue may undo all the good work and may leave you having to deal with the issue from the beginning. To ensure momentum is not lost, there are several things that you can do:

  • Make sure that the employee feels supported. If the employee knows that a manager is there to support and help him or her, this will be invaluable in achieving a successful outcome to the conversation.
  • Have regular informal chats with the individual and less regular formal discussions, including a further meeting to review the outcomes or first step.
  • Ensure that what was said and agreed in the meeting is well documented. Both parties should agree that the contents of the document reflect what was agreed and thereafter refer to it if there is confusion or disagreement.
  • Monitor how the agreed actions are being implemented by the employee.
  • Comply with your obligations as to follow-up, for example providing agreed training.

Dealing with a difficult attitude or an angry or upset employee is not something that you have to handle every day, as a manager. However, if you’re prepared, if and when the situation does arrive, you’ll be in a better position to handle it. If you have a difficult conversation to have with a client and you’d like some help getting the best outcome for everyone, call me on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk and I can give you some advice and pointers.

The Difficult Issue of Dealing with Personal Hygiene Issues at Work

Dealing effectively with an employee who has a personal hygiene problem is one of the most difficult and sensitive situations that you’re likely to face, as a manager. The problem may be one of body odour, dirty or stale-smelling clothing, dirty hair or bad breath.

It is advisable not to ignore a problem of this nature as, the longer the matter is allowed to continue unresolved, the more difficult it will be to raise the issue with the employee. Unless the issue is raised with the employee, it is likely that the problem will continue and other employees may become hostile towards the problem employee and disillusioned by management’s lack of willingness to tackle the problem.

Whether a problem of this nature is brought to your attention informally by one or more of your employee’s colleagues, as a result of a formal complaint, as a result of comments overheard by chance, or by evidence that colleagues are avoiding the person, the issue needs to be tackled promptly and firmly.

Open communication

The only effective method of dealing with a problem of lack of personal hygiene is through honest, open, two-way communication with the employee in question. Plain language should be used to explain the problem. Dropping hints, for example making comments about bad smells, putting a bar of soap in the employee’s desk drawer or leaving a stick of deodorant in a prominent place, is unlikely to work, and may create further problems such as ill-feeling or upset.

It will be important for you to bear in mind that a problem of body odour or bad breath may be rooted in the employee’s health and may not always be due to a lack of personal hygiene. You therefore need to have an open mind and be careful not to be seen to accuse the employee of poor personal standards.

Discussion guidelines

To handle the matter, you should arrange to talk to your employee privately, bearing in mind that an interview of this nature is likely to be difficult and possibly embarrassing for the employee. You will therefore need to be sensitive, understanding and patient during the interview. Clearly, discussions with the employee should be held privately and kept confidential, and it will be important for the employee to be reassured that this is the case.

You should specify the problem factually and in plain language. For example, you might say: “I have noticed sometimes that you have quite a strong body odour and I feel that this is something that needs to be addressed” or “I have noticed on occasions that the clothing you wear to work has a stale smell and I feel that this is something that needs to be addressed.”

Depending on the response you get, you might ask your employee if he or she is aware of any reason for the problem, for example an underlying medical cause. If this is the case, you should not ask intrusive questions into the employee’s state of health, but move on to discuss what can be done to resolve the matter.

Make sure that you reassure the employee that the aim of the discussion is to help and encourage him or her to recognise and solve a problem. Do not tell the employee that other people have commented on the problem (even if they have), as this is likely to cause unnecessary embarrassment.

Action agreement

Having pointed out the problem and allowed the employee adequate time and opportunity to respond, you need to ask your employee what solution he or she thinks would be feasible. Depending on what explanation they give (if any), the solution may be one of the following:

  • See his or her own doctor to explain that the problem has been highlighted at work and ask for (further) medical intervention
  • Agree to be seen by a company-nominated doctor at the employer’s expense to discuss the matter and seek a solution
  • Undertake to bathe more frequently and/or to wash his or her hair more frequently and/or to launder his or her clothes more frequently
  • Undertake to brush his or her teeth and/or use a mouthwash more frequently.

If the problem is one of lack of personal hygiene, you should inform the employee clearly and firmly that an improvement is required so as to avoid further difficulties. This should, however, be put across to the employee in a supportive way, and not in a manner that implies criticism or threat. However, do not be afraid to stress the importance of improvement. You may be able to justify a requirement for improvement along the lines of “providing an acceptable working environment for all, given the close proximity in which colleagues have to work” or “creating a positive image on the part of the organisation when dealing with the public”. Do what you can to secure the employee’s agreed commitment to change and set a date for a review, perhaps in a month’s time.

Dealing with a personal hygiene problem in the workplace is certainly no easy matter, but the employee may, in the longer term, benefit from the sort of frank feedback that will be necessary in such a situation.

If you have a problem such as this at work and you’re still not sure how to handle it, call us for a confidential chat and we’ll help you through it. Call me now on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Source: XpertHR

How Do You Deal with Harassment at Work?

Harassment can be physical, verbal or non-verbal and a wide range of different types of behaviour at work may potentially be perceived as harassment. This blog gives some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as harassment.

Sex-related harassment:

  • Telling jokes about women
  • Making derogatory sexist remarks
  • The display of sexually explicit material on computer screens or in calendars
  • Leering at a woman in a manner that is overtly sexual
  • Physically touching someone in a sexual manner where such conduct is not welcome
  • Remarks, banter or jokes of a sexual nature
  • Making sexual suggestions or persisting with sexual advances after it has been made clear that such approaches are unwelcome.

Racial harassment:

  • Calling someone a nickname linked to his or her skin colour or nationality
  • Remarks, banter or jokes about people from different racial backgrounds.

Disability harassment:

  • Using insulting terminology when referring to a disabled colleague
  • Excessive staring, for example at someone with a facial disfigurement
  • Mimicking a disabled colleague’s mannerisms or speech.

Religious harassment:

  • Remarks, banter or jokes about particular religious beliefs or religious practices
  • Derogatory remarks made about a particular item of clothing or jewellery worn by someone as a symbol of his or her religion.

Sexual orientation harassment:

  • Deliberate isolation of someone on grounds of his or her sexuality or perceived sexuality
  • Deliberately behaving in an effeminate manner in the presence of someone who is gay
  • Calling someone a nickname based on his or her sexuality or perceived sexuality.

Age harassment:

  • Banter and jokes that make fun of older people or demean their abilities
  • Calling someone a name linked to his or her age
  • Ignoring someone, or treating his or her views as worthless, just because he or she is younger or older than other employees.

Guarding against offensive jokes, banter and remarks

General banter linked to sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or age is the most common form of harassment in employment. You should make sure that you properly brief all your staff as to the types of conduct and speech that might cause offence to others and make it clear that such behaviour will be unacceptable.

If you’re concerned about harassment within your company – and you need someone to speak to about it, call me now on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

What Does Bullying at Work Look Like?

Bullying at work is behaviour that is:

  • threatening, aggressive or intimidating
  • abusive, insulting or offensive
  • cruel or vindictive or
  • humiliating, degrading or demeaning.

Bullying will inevitably erode the victim’s confidence and self-esteem. It normally relates to negative behaviours that are repeated and persistent, and deliberately targeted at a particular individual. Bullying is often an abuse of power, position or knowledge, and may be perpetrated by the victim’s manager, his or her peers or even by subordinates. The following table gives some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as bullying, depending on the circumstances.

Whatever form bullying at work might not take, it should not be tolerated at any level and must be dealt with immediately. If you are concerned about any of your employees being bullied, or you are being bullied yourself and need to speak to someone about it in confidence, call me straight away on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Managing the Malingerer

Managing sickness absence is always difficult and dealing with someone who you suspect is not genuinely ill has always been trickier. You might have seen it happen and had your suspicions, but how to you prove that the sickness was not genuine? It’s not easy, so here are some suggestions to help you.

Step 1: Identify and assess potential evidence

The first step is to identify and record available evidence to support your suspicions.

If you have evidence that one of your employees is being dishonest by claiming to be off sick when he or she is not, you may be able to discipline them or even dismiss them for misconduct.

Mere suspicions and rumours will not be enough to show misconduct. However, social media has the potential to provide a good source of possible evidence. If you are presented with evidence from social media, perhaps from another employee, you can use it in the same way as you would any other anecdotal evidence or an employee tip-off.

The credibility of the evidence retrieved from social media will need to be tested in the usual way. Has the information been taken out of context and are the dates of posting accurate?

There is debate over whether social media posts are in the public domain or private, in which case, your employee could argue that this breaches their right to privacy. However, interference with the right to privacy can be objectively justified and might be permissible if you have reasonable grounds to believe that your employee is fraudulently claiming sick pay.

In general, as an employer, you should be able to rely on such evidence, but each case would need to be assessed on its own merits and ‘fishing’ exercises are never advisable.

Step 2: Review the evidence

If your evidence of malingering looks robust and credible then you should be able to start a disciplinary process for misconduct.

A lack of evidence of dishonesty does not mean that you cannot challenge an employee you suspect is not really as ill as they claim. People will often continue to take unwarranted time off where they believe their absences are passing unnoticed.

You can address this by ensuring that return-to-work interviews are carried out following each occasion of absence and encourage your line managers to probe further (or push for medical evidence) if faced with evasive or inadequate answers.

Step 3: Give evidence of misconduct

If you believe you have evidence of dishonest behaviour, it is important not to jump to conclusions. Remember that employees do not have to be bed-bound, or even at home, in order to be unfit for work.

An employee posting pictures of himself on holiday or doing sport or other leisure activities may still be genuinely unwell. Many health conditions do not improve as a result of lying in bed. It is still important to carry out an investigation, as you would for any other allegation of misconduct.

How do you spot malingerers?

Some of the signs include patterns of absence, such as the same day each week; triggers for absence, such as being invited to a disciplinary meeting; reluctance to provide medical evidence or attend appointments; posts on social media; tip-offs from colleagues and reports of activities that seem inconsistent with ill-health, such as undertaking other work or going on holiday.

Step 4: Remember to follow your procedures

Before disciplining or dismissing the malingering employee for misconduct, you must follow your own procedures and the Acas ‘Code on discipline and grievance’, as you would do in any other disciplinary scenario.

You will need to put the evidence to the individual, hear their explanation and consider if that explanation requires further investigation and medical evidence may be needed.

You must also consider the individual circumstances of the case and any mitigating points, such as length of service and previous disciplinary history, as well as how similar cases have been dealt with in the past.

Make sure you follow this process any time you are unsure of how ill an employee really is. If in doubt about how to handle such a situation, contact us by calling 0118 940 3032 or clicking here to email us and we’ll help you through it.

How Do You Handle Short Term Staff Sickness?

Do you have a member of staff who always seems to be off sick, or who doesn’t turn up at work as often as they should do? What’s the best way to handle this?

The first thing you need to do is find out exactly how many days your employee has been off work due to illness and why. What next? Watch this video to find out how to meet to with your employee and what you expect from them next.

If you have any specific questions about handling short term sickness issues with your team, call us 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk for some confidential advice.

Dealing with Bullying or Harassment at Work

Recently we looked at the case of one of my clients who had learnt about sexual harassment happening within their company. Click here to see that blog again, or if you missed it. Fortunately that case was successfully resolved, but if ever you need to go to the next stage with such a case, here is how you should deal with it.

Following investigatory meetings, which you must carry out, and assuming that you decide that there is a case to be answered, a formal disciplinary interview should be set up with the person accused of bullying or harassment. This should be done in writing, with your employee being given a full written account of the evidence gathered against them, including the evidence reported by any witnesses. Whether or not it will be appropriate to state the names of any witnesses will depend on the circumstances.

At the same time, the employee should be given notice to attend the interview and informed of their right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union official. It is essential to provide the accused employee with all the relevant facts at this stage, so that they have a proper opportunity to defend themselves when the interview takes place.

Ask and Listen

At the interview, you should ask open questions, i.e. those beginning with “what”, “which”, “why”, “how”, “where”, “when” and “who”, in order to get the employee’s side of the story. You should listen carefully to what they have to say, and take on board their explanations and any mitigating factors.

The purpose of the interview will be to establish whether or not there are proper grounds for taking disciplinary action against the employee and, if there are, what level of disciplinary action would be appropriate. This will depend on whether or not, following the interview, you have reasonable grounds for forming a genuine belief that incidents of harassment or bullying did in fact occur.

There is no need for you to have absolute proof of the employee’s ‘guilt’ in order to proceed with disciplinary action or dismissal, as long as you have, following a thorough investigation, formed a genuine and reasonable belief that incidents of bullying or harassment took place.

Deal with it Promptly

Depending on the seriousness of the behaviour, disciplinary action may range from a verbal warning to summary dismissal. In cases of mild harassment, for example a single incident that was based on a misunderstanding, or a series of minor incidents where an employee genuinely did not realise that there were causing offence, a sincere apology, together with an undertaking not to repeat the offending behaviour, may be appropriate.

If the outcome is a formal warning or dismissal, the employee should be granted the right of appeal against that decision, to someone who was not involved in either the investigation or the decision to impose the disciplinary sanction. If a warning is given, it should make it very clear that any further incidents of bullying or harassment of any kind will be viewed very seriously and will lead to further formal disciplinary action.

Both the employee who raised the complaint and the employee accused of bullying or harassment should be given written feedback on the outcome and any actions agreed once the proceedings have been concluded. Full confidential records should be kept of all complaints, all interviews conducted and the outcome of the proceedings.

The main aim of any formal action will be to make sure that the harassment or bullying stops immediately and does not recur. This means that you should treat any report of harassment or bullying seriously and deal with it immediately.

I hope that you never have to deal with a situation like this in your business. However, if you are worried about harassment or bullying – either a case that needs to be dealt with, or how to prevent it from happening – please contact me straight away by calling 0118 940 3032 or by clicking here to email me.

The Tricky Situation of Investigating Sexual Harassment

Dealing with sexual harassment at work is not something that you have to deal with everyday. Hopefully it is something that you will never have to worry about. However, since one of my clients asked me to investigate allegations of harassment in their business recently, I thought I would write about it here, just in case you ever need to know how to handle it.

My client told me that one of their female members of staff reported a male colleague to her line manager. The two people work closely together, in a small office that is separate from the main business. They spend most of their working hours together, with no one else around. They have worked together for a long time.

As soon as the harassment was reported, I advised my client to ask the female member of staff to provide him with a statement, describing the situation that she believed to be harassment. She listed a large number of conversations, actions and text messages which she believed to be harassment, in great detail, along with the dates and times that they had occurred.

Once he had this, my client then had to carry out a misconduct investigation with the male member of staff. This should always be done by someone who is impartial to the situation and who can see both sides of the case. The manager should remain open minded when looking into the substance of the employee’s complaint. An employee who is being harassed or bullied at work will be upset and the natural emotional reactions caused by bullying or harassment may in some cases lead to exaggeration or distortion of the facts reported. I wrote in detail about how to carry out any staff investigation in this blog earlier this year and all the information is here.

The aim of an investigation is to establish, so far as possible, the facts. Carrying out a full investigation was essential for my client, to help him decide if his female member of staff had made up her allegations, or if there was a case to answer.

So how do you deal with someone who is bullying or harassing a fellow member of staff? We’ll look at that in a future blog. In the meantime, if you are at all worried about possible harassment or bullying amongst your employees, please get in touch now so that we can deal with it promptly. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Are You Allowed to Use an E-Cigarette at Work?

A smoking ban has been in place in the UK since July 2007, preventing anyone from smoking indoors at work premises and other enclosed spaces. The ban applies to all substances that can be smoked, including cigarettes, herbal cigarettes, cigars and pipes – involving the burning of any substance.

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes give off a vaporised water-based mist, but do not burn any substances. This means that, strictly speaking, they’re not covered by the smoking ban. The increased use of e-cigarettes has prompted a government debate, and it seems that there are now plans to make it illegal to sell them to under 18s, or to adults on their behalf. With the growing use of e-cigarettes, this could be a good time to re-assess your workplace rules on smoking.

Here we’ll give you our answers to some of the common questions we’re currently being asked.

 

Do we have to provide a separate area for e-smokers?

Employees who want to stop smoking by using e-cigarettes may complain about having to use the same designated smoking area as those smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, the law does not require you to provide any smoking area for your staff.

If you choose to designate an area for tobacco smokers, as most employers do, you must make sure that it is legally compliant. It can’t be enclosed and the smoke must not be able to enter the rest of the workplace. The same rules do not apply if you decide to provide an area for the use of e-cigarettes. You will just need to consider where you site this area in relation to any smoking area.

One particularly robust option is to prohibit any type of smoking altogether in your workplace.

 

Non-smokers are complaining about the vapour from e-cigarettes in the office – what should we do?

The law does not stop you from banning the use of e-cigarettes at work. If you want to do this, it is best to have a written policy in place, so that there is no confusion over what is, and what is not, allowed. Any smoke-free policy, whether it extends to e-cigarettes or not, should apply to staff of all levels without exception and even to third parties such as customers, visitors and contractors.

 

Some of my e-smoking staff have complained that they don’t get as many breaks as tobacco smokers. What should I do?

As an employer, you are not obliged to allow smoking breaks in addition to the usual work-day breaks, and there is increasing evidence that they disrupt productivity and hinder performance.

If this is a problem for your business, you might wish to implement a policy that prohibits additional smoking breaks during the working day. This means that employees can only use e-cigarettes or smoke during their usual breaks and outside working hours. Some employers ask e-smokers and smokers to make up any time spent on additional breaks during work hours, but the success of this very much depends on the workplace environment, industry and culture.

If you would like to implement a policy for dealing with e-cigarettes in your business, get in touch and we’ll talk about how to build it into your employment contracts. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

 

Take Seven Steps to Improve Employee Performance – Part One

When you’re looking to grow your business, you’re only as strong as your weakest member. Dealing with somebody in your team who doesn’t live up to the standards you require is difficult, both legally and ethically. Before you show an employee the red card, be sure you have tried everything that is expected from you, the employer, to guide them and push their performance to a higher level.

There is a seven stage process you can follow, to help you tackle poor performance. Here are the first three steps to take:

Step 1: Informal Conversations

Your starting point for resolving issues should be to deal with them early and informally. Sit down and discuss your concerns with your employee. Use these meetings to encourage and develop the behaviour and performance you want.

Never automatically assume that the employee is at fault. Investigate the causes of poor performance before deciding what action to take. Your aim should always be to help your employee bring their performance up to standard.

Step 2: Offer Support

Where your conversation reveals a cause that’s not the fault of your employee, your initial response should be to offer help and support. Regularly monitor performance, referencing the objectives and timescales agreed, where appropriate. You should offer ongoing support, even after the discussion; and keep records and notes of all informal discussions.

Step 3: Performance Review Meeting

If, following informal discussion and support, and from monitoring your employee’s performance, you don’t feel improvements have been made, you’ll need to follow a formal capability procedure. This procedure provides for a series of performance review meetings with the employee following which formal warnings may be issued.

You must give your employee at least 48 hours’ notice of a performance review meeting and ensure the arrangements are handled with discretion and confidentiality.

Make sure you’re accompanied at the meeting by a colleague or HR representative. Their role is to support you and take accurate notes of the meeting, enabling you to focus on handling the session fairly and appropriately.

There’s a lot to take in here, so we’ll cover the next steps in another blog. In the meantime, if you need any help now with a staff performance issue, call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk and we’ll give you some advice.