In this Blast, we wanted to share a few ideas on how to deal with the things that seem to be currently causing the most worry and concern for managers.
The current issues managers are facing:
- Historic and Current Grievances
- Without prejudice meetings and protected conversations
- Top challenges for supervisors
- Note taking at formal meetings
- Dismissing staff with short service
- Data breaches
Please skim through to the topic/s most relevant to you…
Historic and Current Grievances
At times of conflict or unease in the world it has been our experience across the past 30 years that a knock on effect of all this conflict and upset is that more grievances are raised, tribunal claims brought and more formal warnings or dismissals appealed in the workplace than at any other time. We are certainly seeing this now.
Is this to do with a need for us humans to create a vent for our pent-up emotions, to fight back, to find someone to blame when we feel anxious and stressed? Perhaps it is to do with a need to do something that gives us a sense of ‘taking back control’. Of course, it can also be the result of employers cutting corners or not doing things right and employees wanting to challenge that.
Aside from when we have been badly or unfairly treated, none of us likes to be out of control. A loss of control often results in anxiety and stress and this in turn heightens emotions, restricting our ability to reason and use normal judgement. And this is when we at Jaluch see conflict occurring most often, accompanied by an inability to compromise, or find our way out of the situation we are in.
We have often written about grievances so won’t add much more, but here is a link to a blast we wrote on managing historic grievances and here are our current top 5 tips for managing grievances:
- Don’t stick your head in the sand when the email lands, a grievance needs replying to promptly otherwise your employee will be further aggrieved about your lack of a timely response
- Don’t read a grievance when you yourself are feeling emotional. Wait until you are calm or pass it to someone not involved in the issue.
- Remember that you are still the manager, the employer. Do not let an employee dictate how you will investigate or manage the grievance or who should be suspended pending an outcome. At all times remain in control and take the sensible actions that need to be taken without pressure or emotion.
- Don’t ignore a grievance from someone you have just dismissed. If a claim ends up going to tribunal you will need to demonstrate that you have still investigated.
- Beware not to miss a grievance that does not come in the form of an email headed up ‘grievance’. Grievances can be spoken, emailed informally etc so you and your managers need to be aware that if something looks or sounds like a grievance, it probably is.
Without Prejudice and Protected Conversations
There is still a lot of confusion about whether you need to say that your meeting or letter is without prejudice or part of a protected conversation. This without prejudice and protected conversation Blast will help you understand the difference between the two.
Be careful not to get it wrong as that could inadvertently lead to a claim of constructive unfair dismissal or other grievance.
Out top 3 tips for without prejudice and protected conversations:
- Always reserve the right to revert to your usual policies and processes (e.g. redundancy or misconduct) if at any point you are not able to resolve things via the without prejudice or protected conversation route. This means you need to continually keep an eye on timescales and process.
- Never think that things can be resolved in one meeting, so allow for several meetings across one or two weeks and if things are getting heated, why not move it into a virtual meeting as this is great for diffusing some of the emotion and tension
- Don’t let yourself be ‘bounced’ by your employee into a without prejudice or protection conversation. If it suggested, adjourn, and consider your position rather than plough on with the terms of the meeting determined by your employee.
Challenges for supervisors
Clearly supervisors and managers are having a tough time trying to manage staff who are remote, ill, new to the organisation, anxious or self-isolating. The challenges are numerous and varied and it may be time that you stepped back to review how to better support managers. Many are floundering, lost, overwhelmed with an increase in communications, unable to support as they are accustomed to or would like.
Specifically we are finding that absence reporting procedures are no longer fit for purpose when staff are at home, managers do not have the skill set or confidence to support those suffering severe anxiety, and productivity is incredibly hard to manage when staff are remote. We have noticed added pressures for managers with inexperienced/new staff who often just go quiet when they don’t know how to do something and, when they are not near you, it can be hours before their lack of productivity gets noticed. This top 5 challenges for first-time supervisors Blast may help with some ideas otherwise see below for our top tips:
- Its time to move out of the crisis and fire fighting mode we have been in since March and begin to introduce ways of operating that reflect a new type of ‘permanent’.
- Survey your managers before they collapse from stress, worry or exhaustion. What is working when it comes to managing staff, what is not working, what support do they need, where are their challenges? Just asking them is the very first step to providing the support so many managers desperately need.
- Prioritise the challenges and start rolling out some one hour sessions on key topics to give your managers renewed purpose and understanding
- Ease off the ‘productivity’ pedal. Its okay to relax and just share without a specific agenda once in a while. Set up some sessions just with your managers, giving them space and time to properly talk to each other, share ideas, provide support. Online team building is possible but if you are short of ideas, ask us. Equally socially distanced in workplace team building is also possible.
Note Taking at meetings
Clearly there are a lot of meetings taking place as our HR blast on note taking is getting a lot of hits every month.
In some ways note taking this year has got easier with zoom meetings being so easy to record and software becoming ever more adept at turning voice recordings into notes.
What has not got easier is the volume of meetings that need to have notes taken, the challenges of audio issues during meetings when people dial in that can make it hard for note takers to follow conversations at times and the lack of support for those chairing meetings as with furlough, redundancies and other issues it is increasingly common that managers simply can’t find an additional person to support them with note taking at formal meetings.
For a few reminders of the Do’s and Don’t around note taking have a look at this HR Blast.
Short Service dismissals
For years one of our top hitting HR Blasts has been on the 5 Fair Reasons for Dismissal but astonishingly, this has now been knocked off top spot by our Short Service Dismissals HR Blast.
Clearly causing concern for many, managing short service staff is often quite a different process than managing long serving staff and perhaps a lot of new supervisors and managers are looking for a bit of understanding.
Our Top Tips for any dismissals at this time:
- Planning and Organising: Half of the job when looking to dismiss is in the Planning and Organising. Do your thinking ahead of sending out emails, letters or starting on a redundancy consultation process. Who, why, when, how etc. Don’t be bounced into the thinking part of the process when you are already in a meeting with your employee who has started challenging what you are doing.
- Experience and Knowledge: If you don’t have the experience or knowledge when it comes to large scale redundancies, ill health dismissals, dismissing staff who are refusing to return to work etc then don’t just plough on, but stop and do your research and ask for support. No shame in that, none of us is an expert in everything. The Tribunals are full of pending claims resulting from managers making decision to dismiss before getting advice or support.
- Paperwork: When we are overloaded it is so easy to skimp on the paperwork, never write up meeting notes, fail to file meeting notes in a place they can be found, write the email but never press send only to find it in drafts long after the grievance or appeal has landed on our desks. Take a breath, step back, remember it is just as critical now to dot the I’s and cross the T’s as it always is if you are to protect both yourself and your business.
And finally, we have data breaches. What is going on in your organisations that this has shot to the top of our HR Blasts that are being read?
A while ago we flagged that data breaches might start to become a key issue as no one ever really stopped to think about risks and protection when everyone started working from home, using a variety of Wi-Fi with dodgy security, talking about confidential matters in front of flat mates, friends and family or with the window wide open and leaving company sensitive information around our houses.
But perhaps all those lax practises are coming back to haunt us.
If so here are our 3 top tips:
- Risk Assess: You will no doubt have already done a home working risk assessment for H&S purposes so why not draw up a home working security assessment that you can then get staff to fill in or walk through in a 15 minute phone call with someone who understand a bit about data protection.
- Policy and Guidelines: Revisit your data protection guidelines for staff – do they cover all the bases you need to cover given the increase in remote working
- Education: Re-educate staff – why not take a look at our 2 x 15 minute e-Learning modules for staff on safe Wi-Fi and data breaches? Just £10 a person – might increase confidence and competence to protect your organisation. Please do ask us for more information.
Lots going on for all of us so please, please do get in touch if you have any questions or need any support. Better a 5-minute phone call now, than hours and hours further down the line trying to sort out things that haven’t gone to plan!
We have been doing a series of webinars on lots of topics in recent weeks to share our knowledge and provide support. We will be re-running theses in the Spring so please do look out for that. Our aim in all our sessions is to educate, prompt thinking etc so please do take advantage.
Our session on Thursday this week is about Compliance so please do sign up and if negotiation skills could be the difference to you successfully renegotiating supplier contracts or customer contracts then we have a masterclass delivered by Negotiation Expert Roger Norris coming up on 26th November – this will be the final one of our series of 8 Webinars this Autumn. For more info or to book, visit our webinar page.
For those of you new to Jaluch we do support on both a retained and ad hoc basis so if you are contract weary or wary please do ask us about ad hoc support and we will be delighted to share what we do.