How Do You Decide on an Appropriate Disciplinary Penalty?

When you are considering what sanction to impose under a disciplinary procedure, as an employer you must ensure that your decision is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.

If the decision does not meet this test, you may be exposed to a claim for unfair dismissal if your employee is dismissed; or a claim for constructive unfair dismissal if your employee resigns in response to the sanction applied.

Once you have reached the decision that an act of misconduct has taken place, there are a number of factors that will influence the next decision as to which sanction it should apply. When considering which penalty would be appropriate in the circumstances, you should take into account the nature of the act of misconduct, the seriousness of its consequences and whether or not the misconduct has occurred repeatedly or is a one-off incident.

Verbal Warning

A verbal warning would be appropriate when dealing with the first occasion of minor misconduct, such as lateness, sub-standard work, appearance/a failure to comply with the dress code, a failure to follow the requirements of the sickness absence reporting procedure or excessive personal use of your email, telephone or internet systems.

First Written Warning

A first written warning is appropriate where further instances of minor misconduct occur after a verbal warning is given, or when you are dealing with the first instance of more serious misconduct, such as:

  • unauthorised absence
  • a failure to carry out a reasonable instruction
  • inappropriate behaviour towards a colleague or customer
  • breaches of the your policies and processes, such as minor infractions of the health and safety policy, or breaches of the email and internet policy or
  • misuse of company property or equipment.

Final Written Warning

A final written warning should be issued for persistent acts of misconduct where you have already issued the employee with warnings or for a very serious act of misconduct that falls short of gross misconduct, for example:

  • persistent lateness
  • further breaches of the your policies and procedures following a written warning
  • persistent unauthorised absence or
  • serious breaches of health and safety rules, even if the incident is a one-off event.

Dismissal with Notice

The ultimate sanction for misconduct or poor performance is dismissal. When taking the decision to dismiss, you must demonstrate that dismissal in the particular circumstances falls within the ‘band of reasonable responses’. This means that you must demonstrate that a ‘reasonable’ employer could have reached the same decision.

Dismissal with notice is likely to be appropriate where a final written warning has been issued for misconduct or poor performance and further acts of misconduct take place or performance does not improve. The final act of misconduct may not be sufficient on its own to amount to gross misconduct, but would justify dismissal when taken together with earlier acts and a failure by the employee to improve or modify his or her conduct.

Dismissal without Notice

In most cases dismissal for a first offence will be appropriate only where the conduct amounts to gross misconduct. Gross misconduct can also justify dismissal without notice. Gross misconduct will arise where the act is so serious that the employment relationship between you and your employee has been irreparably damaged. You should consider carefully whether or not there has been a genuine breakdown in the trust and confidence between the company and the employee. Such a breakdown might occur where you can no longer have confidence that your employee will carry out their duties with honesty and integrity or will perform their role without causing loss or damage to customers or the company. Whether or not a specific act amounts to gross misconduct will depend on the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the employer’s business. Examples of gross misconduct include:

  • fighting or physically threatening behaviour
  • insubordination (a single act is unlikely to be gross misconduct but dismissal may be justified if, for example, the act is accompanied by offensive language)
  • discriminatory conduct, for example racially offensive language
  • theft or fraud
  • acts of dishonesty, for example falsifying time sheets or
  • a breach of the employer’s drug and alcohol policy.

Your Disciplinary Policy

Your staff handbook or disciplinary procedure should list acts that will be regarded as gross misconduct, but it should explain that employees can also be summarily dismissed for something that is not on the list, if this is reasonable in the circumstances. Where disciplinary rules have made it clear that particular conduct will lead to dismissal, it is more likely that the dismissal will be fair.

When did you last check your staff handbook and disciplinary procedure? If they are not fully up to date, get in touch to see what needs to be done to update them. If you have any questions about disciplining or dismissing an employee, call me 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

How Does Snow White Manage the Seven Dwarfs?

Managing a team of employees brings with it many challenges. Everyone in the team is different – with different needs and needing to be managed differently. How do you work with everyone in your team, to make sure that everyone is pulling together and ensuring that you’re getting the best from each individual and therefore the team as a whole?

In this festive blog, we’ll look at how Snow White manages the very different characters of the seven Dwarfs, for the best effect.

Did you know that six out of seven dwarfs are not Happy?

The seven Dwarfs are all very different and need to be managed differently by Snow White, if she is to get the best from her team. As their manager, she has spent a lot of time getting to know each of the Dwarfs and what motivates them. She has also used a number of different personality profiling tools to help her. Here’s what she’s learnt over the years.

Doc – is a great team leader and a fixer. He can often see a solution to a problem that the others can’t figure out. But he can be a bit bossy too, expecting the other Dwarfs to jump when he gives them an order. Snow White has to give him enough challenging work to stop him from getting bored and trying to boss the others around.

Grumpy – is the technician of the team. He’s great with detail and analysis, but this means that he’s not good at speaking to clients. He gets frustrated when anyone asks him a silly question or doesn’t understand the answer he gives them. He just wants to be left to get on with his work, which he’s actually really good at.

Happy – is always happy! He’s great at motivating the rest of the team and keeping projects going through his energy. He does get distracted easily and sometimes comes up with a new idea before finishing the project that he’s working on. He relies on other members of the team to get the work finished.

Sleepy – sometimes the others think that he’s not pulling his weight as he’s always taking time out for a snooze. But actually, Sleepy is the reflector in the team. When Happy comes up with yet another great new idea, Sleepy is the one who will sleep on it and then come back with the useful questions and suggestions that help the team to decide whether or not to pursue this particular idea.

Dopey – is the joker in the team. He likes to have a laugh and can keep things light, even when the team is working to a deadline. He loves playing practical jokes on Grumpy and teasing Doc when he gets too bossy.

Bashful – is the shy, quiet one in the team. Snow While can’t shout at him if he does something wrong, but spends time explaining exactly what she wants him to do and he’ll do a great job for her. She won’t ask him to go networking or give a presentation to the rest of the Dwarfs because he’s too much of an introvert to do that. He’s a steady, reliable worker who often finishes what Happy starts.

Sneezy – is the member of the team who will come down with the latest bug first. He complains a lot about how it’s too cold or too hot in the office, but Snow White has learnt to keep him busy with plenty of interesting work and responsibility for projects.

By spending time with each of her team members, Snow White has come to know their strengths very well. She can manage them individually and as a team, to get the best from them all through the year!

Maintaining a Healthy, Happy Work Environment

We all want to create a working environment in which our employees look forward to spending time and where they will be their most productive. But sometimes it can go wrong and people find that they have to work somewhere they might feel unhappy, degraded or even humiliated. The creation of an offensive work environment is to be avoided at all costs, if your employees are to remain happy and healthy.

The phrase “creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” means that behaviour can amount to harassment even if it is not targeted at an individual. It will be enough that the behaviour creates an atmosphere at work that causes offence to a particular employee, or makes them feel uncomfortable. For example, the circulation of sexually explicit material around an office, even though it might not be targeted at a particular employee, could constitute sexual harassment against any woman or man who found it distasteful.

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 rather long list gives you some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as harassment:

  • Sex-related harassment
    • Telling jokes about women
    • Making derogatory sexist remarks
    • Deliberately placing tools or materials that a woman needs to do her job on a high shelf to make it harder for her to reach them
  • Harassment of a sexual nature
    • 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
  • Gender reassignment harassment
    • Calling someone a nickname linked to the fact that he or she has undergone gender reassignment
    • Inappropriate touching designed to check whether or not an individual has undergone reconstructive surgery
    • Leaving items specifically associated with the individual’s old or new gender on their desk
  • Racial harassment
    • Calling someone a nickname linked to their 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 their religion
  • Sexual orientation harassment
    • Deliberate isolation of someone on grounds of their 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 their age
    • Ignoring someone, or treating their views as worthless, just because they are younger or older than other employees

How do you guard 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. Managers should make sure that they properly brief all their 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.

The basic rule should be that any jokes, remarks or banter that might cause offence to another employee on any grounds will not be permitted. Employees should be encouraged to realise that their colleagues will have differing views and feelings and differing levels of sensitivity about certain matters.

In addition, no individual employee can ever know everything about their colleagues – who they are married to or any family issues that might mean that offence will be caused by inappropriate remarks. It should be a requirement in every department that employees treat their colleagues with dignity and respect and refrain from any behaviour that might cause offence.

Are you worried about the environment in which your staff work? Do you need help creating the most productive environment possible? Call me on 0118 940 3032 or email me here and we can talk about how I can help you to do this.

Source: XpertHR

What Are the Benefits of Appraisals?

Appraisals are a two-headed process of looking backwards to analyse past job performance and also looking forward into the future with a view to improving future performance.

The overall objective of an effective appraisal scheme should be to help each of your employees to maximise their job performance for the joint benefit of that employee and your organisation.

This blog aims to help line managers to understand the processes involved in conducting effective appraisals.

The Purpose of appraisals

The main purpose of an appraisal scheme should be to assist employees to improve their performance. This will be of benefit to both the employees and the organisation.

An appraisal scheme may be designed to include some or all of the following elements:

  • a review of the employee’s past performance
  • discussion of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses
  • discussion of any problems and constraints, with a view to identifying solutions
  • a review of the extent to which the employee has achieved set targets
  • discussion of appropriate targets for the forthcoming year
  • identification of training and development needs in relation to the employee’s current job
  • identification of training and development needs in relation to a job that the employee may do in the future
  • a review of the employee’s long-term potential
  • a discussion about the employer’s future plans and
  • a discussion about the employee’s future ambitions and plans.

The Benefits of Appraisals

If carried out effectively, a staff appraisal scheme will provide benefits for the individual, the line manager and the organisation.

What are the Problem Areas to Look For?

While appraisal schemes have many potential benefits, it is useful for line managers to appreciate the negative issues that they may sometimes raise.

  • If appraisal is linked to the organisation’s pay review process, discussions may become focused on pay instead of performance. Pay reviews are therefore best kept separate from performance appraisal.
  • The line manager may be tempted to use the appraisal interview to raise disciplinary matters. If there is a problem with an employee’s conduct or performance, the matter should be raised with the employee at the time the problem arises, and not stored up for the annual appraisal interview.
  • Managers may be reluctant to deliver criticism on a face-to-face basis, perhaps because of a fear that the employee might react badly, become defensive or even respond negatively to the whole process of appraisal.
  • Line managers may not work closely with their staff and may not therefore have the necessary insight into their performance or strengths and weaknesses. If this is the case, it will be vital for the line manager to talk to the employee’s immediate supervisor to gain the necessary feedback.
  • Personal likes and dislikes can affect the outcome of appraisal interviews, unless the line manager has a sound awareness of these, and is able to put them to one side and view the employee’s abilities objectively.
  • An employee may believe that the line manager holds prejudices against him or her, perhaps as a result of a personality clash or because of disagreements over the year.
  • Some employees are intrinsically suspicious of appraisal.

If you need more advice about appraisals, you can listen to the free webinar that we ran in October 2017. Click here to register your details and you’ll be able to listen to the webinar straight away.

Source: XpertHR

Six Common Summer Employment Issues

With high temperatures possible during the summer months, in this blog we’ll look at some employment law scenarios that you may have to deal with, as an employer.

Maximum office temperatures – The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in the workplace needs to be “reasonable”. However, there is no maximum temperature. What is reasonable will depend on the nature of your workplace and the work being carried out by your employees. Factors such as whether or not the work is strenuous or physical will need to be taken into account.

Unauthorised time off – If a holiday request is refused but your employee goes ahead and takes the time off anyway, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. You should carry out an investigation to establish whether or not the absence was for genuine reasons. If, however, there is no credible explanation from the employee, it may become a disciplinary issue and your disciplinary process will need to be followed.

Summer dress codes – It may be reasonable for you to adopt a more relaxed dress code during the summer months. However, the extent to which your employees may be allowed to dress down when the temperature rises will in part depend on the role he or she performs.

In the case of customer-facing roles, certain standards of presentation may need to be maintained. For health and safety reasons, it may be necessary for employees to continue to wear protective clothing, irrespective of summer heat.

One way or the other, you should ensure that the dress code is reasonable, appropriate to the needs of your particular business and does not discriminate between groups of employees.

Competing summer holiday requests – Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, you are not obliged to agree to an employee’s request to take holiday at a particular time, unless the employment contract provides otherwise.

If competing requests for holiday are received from different members of staff, your managers may prioritise requests, provided that they do this in a way which is fair and consistent, for example on a first-come, first-served basis.

To avoid the short periods of notice for requests and refusals, it makes sense for your business to have its own holiday policy in which you can set out your own notice provisions and other arrangements relating to holiday.

Late return from summer holiday – Issues may also arise in the case of an employee who returns late from his or her summer holiday. In the first instance, you should allow the employee the opportunity to provide an explanation. Supporting evidence, for example a medical certificate in the case of ill health, should be requested.

However, if the explanation does not appear genuine, you will need to consider following your disciplinary policy.

Summer work experience – The school summer holidays are typically a time when employers offer school-age children the opportunity to carry out work experience. You do not have to pay a child of compulsory school age while on work experience. However, all other rules and restrictions on employing young people will apply, and relevant approvals from the local authority or school governing body will need to be obtained.

Is your business ready for more heat this summer? If you need any advice regarding working conditions for your employees over the summer, just get in touch. You can call 0118 940 3032 or email me at sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Source: XpertHR

Performance Management – How Do You Get The Best From Your Team?

In May 2017 I ran a webinar where we talked about performance management and what you can do to get the best from your team. We covered the success factors of performance management and what effective performance management requires. We discussed the differences between formal and informal performance management and the day-to-day issues that need to be covered. We also looked at Personal Development Plans and how you can use them to get the best from your employees. There was a lot to get through, so I thought I would share more tips here.

Performance management is fundamental to the effectiveness of your organisation, dependent as it is on your people for the goods and services that you provide. Each person can make a difference. Collectively, a workforce that performs at high levels can help your organisation to survive and prosper in a competitive marketplace.

What is Performance Management?

Performance management consists of two parallel processes:

  • the informal, day-to-day management of individuals and teams by their immediate line manager and
  • the formal framework within which the performance of individuals and teams is assessed and improved.

The two processes are mutually supportive and depend on the same factors for success. They involve:

  • monitoring individual or team performance against accepted benchmarks or standards
  • feedback on performance – both praise (positive reinforcement) and feedback highlighting unsatisfactory performance
  • ensuring that negative feedback is delivered in an objective manner and is accompanied by an explanation of why the performance is unsatisfactory, affording an opportunity for the employee to provide an explanation as well as the means to improve in the future
  • coaching, training or other support to address poor performance
  • follow-up monitoring to check that the performance has improved, with the improvements reinforced with positive feedback
  • the option to progress to formal procedures, such as the disciplinary or capability procedures if poor performance continues and represents serious cause for concern.

Effective Performance Management

Effective performance management depends on the quality of the supervisory and people management skills of those responsible for managing your company’s workforce. It requires capable, motivated managers to put the parallel informal and formal performance management processes into effect. It requires the business to have simple but effective formal performance management procedures for your managers to use. Effective Performance Management also needs effective recruitment processes that result in suitable individuals being recruited to people management roles.

In addition, your business needs good induction, and training and development systems that give individuals the skills, knowledge and experience to manage performance effectively. Incentives – psychological rewards, tangible rewards or both – to encourage the workforce to take performance management seriously must be considered. And finally, your company needs formal structures that allow it to make sure that both managers and their reports are observing the performance management policy.

As you can see, improving the performance of your people first requires effective management of that performance, with the processes and procedures to support it. Start by putting the necessary processes and procedures in place and you will be able to effectively improve the performance of your teams.

Listen to the Webinar

If you missed the webinar that I ran on 31 May 2017 and you would like to listen to it, you can hear it here. If you joined us on the webinar, you can also listen again, in case you missed anything.

When you click the link, you’ll need to register by putting your contact details into the form on the page and then you’ll be able to download the webinar and listen to it as many times as you like.

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.

Handling Difficult Conversations – Part Two

In a previous blog post we wrote about the first couple of steps that you can take, when preparing to handle a difficult conversation with a member of your staff. Here are the next steps for you to follow.

3. Listening

Taking the time to listen will also help you to gather useful information about the issue. You should prepare questions but must let the employee explain or react in his or her own time.

Dos and don’ts

  • Do ask for the individual’s view, as this could help to find an appropriate solution to the issue
  • Do use open questions such as “what is your view on that?”
  • Do listen to and acknowledge the employee’s point of view
  • Do appreciate the value of silence. This allows the individual time to gather his or her thoughts
  • Do ask if you have not understood what has been said
  • Do summarise the main points of what the employee has said. This is useful as it shows that you have listened, helps to consolidate your thoughts and helps you to decide where the conversation should go next
  • Do check that the employee has understood what you have said
  • Don’t jump in while the individual is speaking
  • Don’t answer questions that you have put to the employee to answer
  • Don’t ask multiple questions as this can come across as intimidating and prevent the employee from giving a useful answer.

4. Explore the Issues

During the conversation, you and your employee should explore the issue together. If you explore the issue as a whole, including the reasons why it arose, this will increase the chances that the conversation will be successful. Exploring the issue could also help you to find out more about the individual, the team and the organisation.

The issue can be explored in a number of ways:

You can use probing questions to understand or clarify what the employee has said, for example “tell me more about that.”

You might ask rather than tell. You could ask the employee what he or she sees as the ideal outcome of the conversation and how this might be achieved, as well as how others might respond to this.

You can discuss the pros and cons of the different options with the employee.

5. Agree Action

Having ascertained the ideal outcome of the conversation, you and your employee need to agree how it can be achieved.

You need to agree the way forward together. This encourages joint ownership of the issue, which helps the employee to treat it seriously and take responsibility for resolving it.

Brainstorming will help the employee feel involved and is an easy way of comparing the positives and negatives of different solutions.

If the issue requires action, you should both agree a deadline. Scheduling a date by which the action must be completed helps to focus minds. This could be coupled with the date for the next meeting to review the situation.

If the employee needs to improve, you should both agree how development or progress will be measured.

The employee may need support from you to resolve the issue and you need to take this into account.

Once it has been agreed what the employee is going to do, you should ask them to summarise this, which ensures that they have fully understood what is required and by when.

You should end the meeting by explaining that you want the individual to succeed.

When you have a difficult conversation to handle with an employee, don’t put it off. Spend time preparing for it and you will be able to get the best outcome for both you and you member of staff.

Handling Difficult Conversations – Part One

Difficult conversations with employees are part of a line manager’s role.

Any conversation that you would rather not have can result in you expecting it to be a difficult one. However, issues need to be dealt with before they escalate into more serious problems, so in this series of blogs we’ll look at how best to handle them.

Issues that managers find difficult to raise with employees include:

  • delivering bad news, such as confirmation that an employee is being dismissed
  • providing feedback on performance
  • raising an issue of misconduct
  • raising the issue of an employee’s personal hygiene
  • addressing a conflict between colleagues
  • acknowledging that the line manager was wrong and the employee was right.

What happens if you ignore the issue?

Failing to have a conversation to address the issue could have a number of potentially serious consequences:

  • The issue may interfere with your own work
  • If an issue of poor performance or misconduct is left unchecked, the employee may think that the situation is acceptable
  • Failing to address issues of poor performance or misconduct will make it more difficult for you to impose a disciplinary sanction at a later date
  • If left unresolved the issue may cause productivity problems for the individual, the team and the organisation
  • If the issue that needs to be addressed is the employee’s failure to pull his or her weight, failing to address it may cause problems with the employee’s colleagues who may have to pick up the individual’s slack
  • A loss of respect for you as a manager and the organisation as a whole can develop.

Once you have decided to address the issue by having a conversation with the individual, you should conduct it in an appropriate manner so that both parties use the situation to maximum benefit. There are five key areas that you should consider.

1. Preparation

Effective preparation for the meeting will help you get across what you want to say without losing sight of the objective. There are several strands to effective preparation:

  • Investigate the issue before the meeting to be able to provide evidence
  • Decide what the ideal outcome of the conversation would be
  • Think carefully about the differences between your character and that of your employee. You could adapt your style of doing things to assist with understanding and acceptance of the message by your employee.
  • Think about your frame of mind before having the conversation
  • Concentrate on the issue rather than the individual

You should prepare any materials that may be needed for the meeting, including extra copies of documents for the employee. You can also practise what you are going to say, particularly any opening statement or questions.

A difficult conversation should always be conducted in private so that neither the line manager nor the employee is embarrassed and so that you both feel that they can speak freely. You should allow sufficient time to enable proper discussion.

2. Communication

It is important for you to communicate the issue clearly, so that there are no misunderstandings. You must also put the message across in a way that is constructive, even though the information may seem negative.

Set the right tone: begin the conversation in a professional manner as this will encourage a professional attitude throughout the meeting and help to achieve a successful outcome.

State the issues clearly: To avoid misunderstanding, state clearly what the issue is. Praise or positive comments can be useful, but you should not let this cloud the message that you need to impart.

Put the issue in context: Demonstrate why the issue is important.

Give specific examples and evidence: If the message that needs to be imparted is that the employee has been refused a request for flexible working, it helps if you can give specific examples of why the request cannot be accommodated.

Focus on the issue, not the person: Avoid expressing your opinion about the employee. This can be done by sticking to the facts and avoiding generalisations and comments on the individual’s personality.

Avoid an attitude of blame: The issue needs to be addressed in a collaborative way. Managers should not approach a conversation with an attitude of ‘line manager versus the employee, but with an attitude of ‘both versus the problem’.

Avoid belittling the issue: Your own fear of a difficult conversation could lead you to belittle the issue. Avoid phrases such as “this won’t take long”, “it’s really not a big deal” and “I’m sure you’re aware of what I’ll be saying”.

Be positive: Managers should be bold and state that they want a successful outcome to the meeting. This will give a constructive tone and feel to the conversation even if the news seems bad. It also helps if you use positive words, such as “improvement” and “achievement”, rather than negative words, such as “failure” and “weakness”.

Body language: Be aware of your own body language so that it does not alienate the employee. Your attitude will usually be replicated by the employee.

There is a lot more to getting through difficult conversations with employees, including listening, exploring the issue and agreeing the next action, which we’ll cover in the next blog in this series.

If you need some help now with handling difficult conversations, contact us now and we can provide you with some free, impartial advice, to help you get started. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Source: Xperthr

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