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Tempering Your Behaviour

As Employers and managers of others, we need to be able to be the bigger person in situations where emotions run high or where we’re tempted to react spontaneously.

Take a situation where an employee dramatically storms out of work, intimating or stating that they quit on the spot. This can leave employers confused about what they should do. We’ve seen it happen on television, and some employers have experienced it first hand, but an employee storming out of work can be disruptive and needs to be handled assertively.

It may be difficult to do and counter-intuitive, but in such circumstances it’s wise to give the employee the benefit of the doubt and allow them to return to work. That’s not to say the behaviour can be ignored. It should be followed up with some action.

The reasons why someone might go off in a huff are varied. They may object to something they have been told or asked to do, may disagree with a management decision or simply be tired and frustrated by their job. Of course there are dozens more reasons and circumstances which may provoke such behaviour, so be careful not to jump to conclusions.

It’s important not react to the behaviour in a way that could worsen the situation for either party. It might be tempting to slam the door firmly shut behind the employee but that’s likely to cause more problems than it solves.

Instead, give the employee a period of time to cool down. Wait to see if he or she returns to work for their next shift. If they do then you can have a conversation with them. Determine if there are any underlying problems or mitigating circumstances. If there is, then offer support. If it was just a display of temper then you’ll need to be clear that the behaviour was inappropriate and some form of disciplinary action may follow.

Of course the employee may not storm out but instead become argumentative and aggressive. This is where you’ll need to assertively take control of the situation and not allow it to boil over into a situation either party may come to regret.

Despite your desire to vehemently voice your side of the argument, a better approach may be to take a breath and suggest having a break and a cup of tea so that both sides can gather their thoughts and compose themselves.

Of course we’re all human, but the ability to take a step back and assess the situation without flying off the handle is the mark of a good manager.

I recommend the excellent book “The Chimp Paradox” by Professor Steve Peters, which examines the reasons why we behave in certain situations and how to monitor our behaviour. And of course there is always our ‘Handling Difficult Conversations’ workshop.

For help and support with any HR and Employment Law matters, especially the prickly ones, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

18 May 2018, 11:14

New Training Courses Added to Funded Portfolio

We have today received confirmation that two more of our training courses have attained accreditation through City & Guilds. The good news for you is that we can now add them to our portfolio of courses that qualify for funding.

In addition to our suite of ILM accredited Leadership and Management courses that can be accessed by Gloucestershire and Worcestershire businesses at no cost, we will now be adding:

  • City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Customer Service
  • City & Guilds Level 3 Award in Education and Training (Train the Trainer)

These courses are a perfect complement to our existing portfolio.

The Customer Service modules link neatly with our Team Member and Team Leader courses; covering key essential skills like communication, and discusses the importance of taking ownership of situations.

The Train the Trainer Award sits alongside our Level 3 and Level 4 certificates in Leadership Specialising in HR Topics and are tailored for those that work on the people development side of an organisation, and will also help managers to upskill their team.

Forthcoming courses with availability:

  • Level 4 Certificate in Leadership Specialising in HR Topics:    Commences 21st may in Gloucester

  • Level 2 Certificate in Leadership & Team Skills:    Commences 30th May in Worcester

  • Level 2 Certificate in Leadership & Team Skills:    Commences 5th June in Gloucester

  • Level 4 Certificate in Leadership & Management:    Commences 7th June in Worcester

  • Level 3 Certificate in Customer Service:    Commences 21st June in Worcester

All above courses are open courses so available to any business from any area. Gloucester and Worcester businesses have access to funding which means delegates can attend at no cost.
For further information or and to book a place, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

11 May 2018, 14:13

Dismissal Types

Reasons for dismissal can often get confused but it’s important to know what’s what so that you can ensure that procedures are followed correctly and you are not exposed to any potential to be taken to an Employment Tribunal.

The three types of dismissal that Employers can find themselves in court for are Unfair, Wrongful and Constructive. We’ll look at each in turn.

  • Generally speaking, a claim for Unfair Dismissal can only be bought by an employee who has more than two years of continuous service, thus having qualified for workers’ rights. Unfair dismissal occurs when an employee is dismissed in an unfair, unjust or unreasonable manner. An employee might bring an unfair dismissal claim if he or she is dismissed for reasons of either their capability to do their job or for their conduct, but disputes these reasons. There are some exceptions to this however such as where a protected characteristic is involved or whistleblowing.

  • A Wrongful Dismissal claim will most likely be bought for a breach of contract. There is no qualifying period for wrongful dismissal so it’s possible for an employee to bring a wrongful dismissal claim having only been employed for one day. We deal with wrongful dismissals often when a worker hasn’t been given the correct notice period at dismissal or their final pay is wrong. It’s easy to fall foul of wrongful dismissal for failing to follow procedure. An employee may be thoroughly guilty of a misdemeanour at work but if you fail to give him or her sufficient notice for a disciplinary hearing for example, you would have failed to follow procedure and so any subsequent dismissal would probably be classed as wrongful.

  • Constructive Dismissal occurs when an employee resigns from his or her position and subsequently brings a claim because they felt they were forced to resign due to some action or breach of contract by their employer. This may be because they felt poorly treated, such as a fundamental change to their contract being imposed. Cases of bullying also tend to end with constructive dismissal claims. Employers may wish to increase this notice period, particularly if the position is difficult to recruit for. This brings about its own problems however because the employer needs to balance the risk of recruiting the wrong person with the needs of the company in having an extended notice period.

As mentioned, some exceptions to these rules exist so we recommend that you contact us as early as possible if you are ever in doubt about an employee situation.

Call us on 01452 331331 or an e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk for support with all you employee issues.

04 May 2018, 11:58

Do You Enable Self-Leadership?

As a prolific provider of Leadership and Management training, discussion and debate around the qualities of great leaders is, as you might imagine, a regular occurrence for us. Leadership is a massive subject. There seems to be a limitless supply of articles blogs and discussions available on the Internet and in industry magazines debating what it means to be a leader in the modern world.

When we ask for examples of great leaders, common responses include the likes of Winston Churchill, Richard Branson and Nelson Mandela. There are often parallels drawn between the worlds of business and sport with Alex Ferguson and Martin Johnson often cited for their distinctive leadership styles.

When it comes to really successful and growth businesses however, there is an aspect to leadership that is often overlooked; self-leadership.

Enabling self-leadership in itself takes great leadership to achieve, but businesses and organisations that encourage and facilitate their employees to be self-leaders can reap the benefits of staff who:

  • Are willing and able to make decisions
  • Understand what their responsibilities are and recognise their accountability
  • Are creative in problem solving and persist in the face of adversity
  • Set their own objectives and achieve them

The key to self-leadership is being able to recognise where you are for any particular task or competency. Consider four main stages:

  • Unconscious Incompetence – you’re unaware of a task and, understandably you don’t know how to accomplish it
  • Conscious Incompetence – you recognise there’s a task to be done but you don’t know how to accomplish it
  • Conscious Competence – you recognise the task and with some effort and concentration you can accomplish it
  • Unconscious Competence – accomplishing the task is a breeze, you could do it one handed

Recognising when you need help isn’t a sign of failure but an appreciation of which stage you are at.   It’s also a sign of self-leadership. It can sometimes be difficult for an employee to ask for support, which is why self-leadership must be understood and enabled from the very top of an organisation.

Organisational culture is a phrase we tend to use a lot but it’s exactly where the difference lies between those businesses that see the value in enabling their employees to self-lead and those that persist with a tell and do attitude that eventually spirals downward to destruction due to poor morale and inefficiency.

If you’re interested in promoting a culture of self-leadership and aspire to business growth, then talk to us about our new Self-leadership training course, developed by Ken Blanchard. Call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

26 April 2018, 08:27

Managing Consistently

One of the overriding principals that we try to instil in our clients when supporting with people management issues is to manage consistently. This not only applies to managing and applying rules fairly and equally to all employees, but also in measuring the consequences of employees’ actions or failure to act regardless of position or perceived level of seniority.

You may have heard the anecdote of the man who sweeps the floors at the NASA Kennedy Space Centre who, when asked what his job was replied “I put rockets into space”. This story demonstrates how everyone who works in an organisation should be aware of their contribution to the overarching goal; but this also works in reverse.

For example, in a company that makes meat pies, the failure of the cleaner to keep the assembly area clean and free from dust and other contaminants could potentially have an equal or more damaging effect as the person who is a bit slap-dash with how the chicken has been stored or cooked. But would you treat them differently because they’re on different pay scales?

Practicing a “them and us” policy, even if it is unintentional or subconscious, is a sure fire way of damaging staff morale and creating resentment. It doesn’t take much to be seen as having favourites that are treated more leniently because they support the same football team or share a common interest. But the potential damage could be much worse than just sour grapes.

Custom and practice means that even if your policies and procedures say one thing, but you actually do something differently and have done so regularly or on a number of occasions, then it’s not unreasonable for your employees to assume that it is normal and acceptable. If nothing happens if employee A misses his or her targets for three months, why would employee B think that anything is going to happen if they miss theirs? And then what about for four or five months?

If you have need to take a situation down a disciplinary route, consistency is key. You won’t be able to hold one member of staff accountable if another is allowed to get away with something of equal gravity, even if their jobs or tasks are wildly different. If a case ever has to go as far as Tribunal custom and practice and consistency in dealing with other employees will come very high up in a Tribunal’s considerations.

So, to re-iterate, manage consistently and consider the overall potential effect for all staff of your decisions and actions

For help with formulating management strategies and advice with management and disciplinary issues, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

20 April 2018, 09:21

Disciplinary Process - A Rough Guide

Failure to follow a formal process with employees remains one of the main reasons that we are asked to intervene in disciplinary situations. If a case has the potential to end in dismissal, you need to make sure that all the boxes are ticked by following your disciplinary process to the letter. Even in what appears to be a clear cut case of, for example, gross misconduct, failing to follow a process properly could still result in a claim for wrongful dismissal.

Faced with losing their job, particularly if there is a chance that the reason for their dismissal will affect their ability to get another job elsewhere, an employee is likely to try any option. And now that Tribunal fees have been scrapped, there is nothing to stand in their way of entering a Tribunal claim.

Here’s a rough guide to a disciplinary process. It’s not a panacea as all cases will differ in some way, but you can look at it as a framework for managing your disciplinary process.

  • If you have cause to commence a disciplinary process your fist step must be an investigation to establish exactly what has occurred or failed to occur.

  • Interview the subject employee and take notes of the meeting. You don’t need to give any notice of the meeting and you’re not required to offer representation. You can call the meeting immediately if you wish.

  • Have the employee sign the notes to agree that they are an accurate representation of the discussion in the meeting.

  • Suspension is viewed as quite an extreme act. Only suspend the employee if he or she is a potential risk to the business

  • Interview any witnesses and take statements from them. Gather any other evidence and prepare your case.

  • If you decide that there is a case to answer, invite the employee to a disciplinary meeting in writing.

  • You must give reasonable notice of this meeting; we recommend at least 48 hours. We also recommend that you use recorded delivery or have some way of proving that the invitation was delivered.

  • You’ll need to include any evidence that you intend to use at the disciplinary meeting along with the invitation to give the employee a chance to build a defence.

  • You must offer representation; either a fellow employee or an officially appointed union representative, even if you don’t recognise unions at your place of work. You don’t have to allow a family member or solicitor to represent unless your own policy says otherwise.

  • A senior manager is good to hold the disciplinary meeting. Ensure the meeting is fully minuted. Make sure there is someone in a management level above who isn’t involved for appeal purposes.

  • Put your case forward, hear your employee’s defence. Adjourn the meeting to consider the outcome. Don’t make a decision there and then, it may look like you have pre-judged it.

  • Re-convene the meeting to state the outcome. If the case is upheld, apply the appropriate measures. This will range from a verbal warning to a written warning and up to dismissal.

  • Inform the employee of the outcome in writing. You must offer the right to appeal your decision. Keep the time frame for appeal short. We recommend within one week.

  • Warnings may stay on the employee’s file for up to 12 months and a recurrence will escalate the disciplinary measure taken up to the next level.

  • If the employee appeals the outcome an appeal meeting must be arranged, preferably with a more senior manager but at least with someone different but at the same level as the disciplining manager.

  • Follow a similar process to the disciplinary and decide if outcome should be upheld or overturned.

  • You should always endeavour to follow your own disciplinary policy.

Of course we’re on hand to support with any disciplinarians and for some clients we manage the complete process so if you would like support you just need to call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail us at info@hrchampions.co.uk

13 April 2018, 12:03

Dealing with Difficult Employees - Part 2: Triggers

In our last article, we looked at certain behaviours to look out for to help to identify difficult employees so that appropriate action can be taken. However, we hope that it’s safe to assume that  nobody sets out to be a difficult employee, and so of equal importance to identifying difficult employees is identifying the ‘triggers’ that lead to difficult or unacceptable behaviour.

A trigger for unacceptable behaviour may be what most people would consider an innocuous change in circumstances or working environment, but for the affected employee it’s enough to radically change their conduct. Triggers might include:

  • A New Boss – Many of us dislike change and a new boss may bring new ideas that will affect the status quo or ‘the way we’ve always done things around here’, which can be enough to provoke animosity.

  • New Responsibilities – Businesses often have to modify working practices or introduce new ones in order to expand or remain competitive. With new practices comes new responsibilities that the workforce will need to take on and some employees may not be ready to do so, particularly if there is no increase in pay.
  • New Technology – Again, a change in working practices or the need to accept and embrace new technology which may require re-training, can often cause resentment.

  • Failure by a Manager to Deal with Underperformers – Staff will generally know who isn’t pulling their weight in a business and if the underperformers aren’t dealt with appropriately it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the productivity of others begins to wane. Why should they make the effort if others are getting away with it?

  • Poorly Handled Disciplinary Issue – Because an employee has to be disciplined, it doesn’t mean that a grudge should arise. Indeed, properly managed it should clear the air and allow everyone to get on with their jobs. A badly managed disciplinary however can easily leave a bitter taste.

Many events may be triggers because they undermine the employee’s confidence or put them into a situation they are uncomfortable with or have no experience of. In an effort to save face and avoid admitting defeat, the employee takes on the new behaviour to disguise their shortcomings.

Once a clearer understanding of the employee’s behaviour has been obtained, and their problem behaviour trigger has been identified, a systematic approach of providing counselling or training can be applied, with disciplinary action being subsequently taken if performance does not improve. Counselling an employee who has started coming in to work late since he was assigned a new boss may remedy a situation without the need for disciplinary action, or sales refresher training may be all that is needed for the bolshie salesman who has just had his targets re-appraised.

Although there are no hard and fast rules in managing difficult employees, preventative measures are likely to be the most effective. Clearly defined job descriptions and a comprehensive induction programme will leave employees in no doubt of what their duties are and what is expected of them by the company.

Similarly, well-conducted, regular appraisals will help anticipate and identify problems, which can be dealt with before they develop into a crisis. Effective communication practices are a must.

For more help and support with managing your team to help prevent difficult and inappropriate behaviour, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk and don’t forget to ask us about our funded training that covers the issues raised here.

03 April 2018, 15:27

Dealing with Difficult Employees - Part 1: Behavioural Types

Whilst dealing with difficult employees promptly and effectively is crucial to prohibit the potential damage they can cause to their colleagues and to the organisation, actually identifying difficult behaviour is not always as straightforward as it seems. Clearly, persistent lateness, low productivity and insubordination are examples of unacceptable behaviour that are easily identified and can be dealt with through normal disciplinary channels. However other problem behaviour can be much more complicated to define.

You may know that a particular employee is difficult, but putting your finger exactly on the reason why, or describing the specific behaviour can be extremely hard to do. Consequently, dealing with the employee effectively becomes too challenging, and is often the reason why nothing is done and the situation is left to fester until the problem grows out of control.

Different industries and working environments will have their own share of these indiscernibly difficult employees. Although they will come in many different guises, with some very unique characteristics, what makes them difficult or problem employees will probably fall under one or more of just a few broader categories: -

  • Time bandits – These people impact on their manager’s time because they seek constant re-assurance, always needing to be driven to produce results, need showing or telling how to do a specific task every time it is required, or they just don’t seem capable of getting on with a job on their own

  • Shirkers – Afraid to take responsibility, shirkers may not be confident of their own judgement and can dramatically affect productivity as they wait for somebody else to make a decision for them. More specifically, worriers, buck passers and hand holders fall into this category

  • Annoyers – Always whingeing and whining, looks for the negatives, has got a bad attitude or is impossible to hold a civil conversation with. Annoyers tend to drag down the team morale as their actions are felt mostly by their colleagues and people they work closely with. They can also have a negative effect on customers when in a customer facing role

  • Dodgers - Some dodgers will have set routines to avoid work, such as making the tea at certain times. Others will not initiate any work for themselves but only do the tasks given directly to them, or will take their time over simple tasks, leaving challenging jobs for others to do.

Certain industries will nurture their own specific categories of problem employees that should be identified. Whilst categorising behaviours in this way helps to determine the appropriate action to take, blatantly labelling employees should of course be avoided.

Equally important is identifying triggers that may be the reason behind the employee’s behaviour which we will look at in part two of this blog.

In the meantime, contact us for help and assistance with any of the issues raised here or for information about our training courses to help you deal with difficult employees. Call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

23 March 2018, 12:18

What Makes Difficult Conversations Difficult

Hands up who likes holding difficult conversations. That’ll be no-one then. But that’s OK, and perfectly understandable. Nobody really likes holding difficult conversations because they inherently bring with them the potential for conflict, discomfort or embarrassment. It’s the fear of these consequences that are what really makes having the conversation difficult.

In a work environment, telling somebody that their work isn’t good enough or that they’re going to be made redundant, that they smell, or even asking a client to pay their invoice, can often be a difficult conversation to hold. And again it is because of the fear of the potential consequences. What if it kicks off and they start to get aggressive? What if they get upset and start to cry? What if the situation develops to a stage where I don’t know what to do or say?

Whilst even the thought of holding a difficult conversation might begin to make us feel uncomfortable, what we should be thinking about is the consequences of NOT holding that conversation. Are we really going to jeopardise the right and proper outcome of situation because we’re afraid of becoming embarrassed or frightened that we won’t know what to do or say next.

We have been asked to intervene in dozens, if not hundreds, of workplace situations that have been allowed to escalate simply because an appropriate conversation wasn’t held at the right time. Not only will that conversation become increasingly more difficult to hold the longer it is left, there is also the very real potential that the outcome will become increasingly more expensive to resolve.

There is no silver bullet that will suddenly take away the anxiety that a looming difficult conversation brings, but there are tactics that you can employ that can make the experience more palatable easier to deal with.

Preparation is vital, both in terms of having your case and any evidence organised as well as being ready to handle all the potential outcomes. A prepared structure and timeframe of how you want the conversation to go and some key phrases to help you keep it on track will also help you get to your desired outcome.

With the correct preparation you’ll have the confidence to take on difficult conversations and very quickly they’ll be second nature and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

We run a stand-alone “Holding Difficult Conversations” one-day workshop but we also include elements of it most of our ILM leadership courses which are currently available with full funding. Call us to discuss what’s available on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

08 March 2018, 15:52

Turning up the Heat

With the weather being what it is, you may be asked to turn up the heating at work. Obviously there is a cost implication but there are other issues that employers should consider.

Workplace temperature is covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992. Whilst the approved code of practice suggests that workrooms should never drop below 16° Celsius (or 13° Celsius where rigorous physical effort is involved), the Regulations escape quoting a particular figure by using the term ‘reasonable’ when discussing workplace temperatures.

Therefore it is down to the employer to decide what reasonable comfort is, depending on the particular circumstances. This ultimately falls under an employer’s implied duty of care to his or her employees.

Heating buildings is expensive and there is an environmental impact to consider so employers should consult with their staff to determine what temperature is acceptable.  Not only is 16° likely to be too cold to be considered comfortable for the average office environment, an employer should also think about the productivity of staff who are shivering at their desks.

Whilst everyone will want to work in an environment that has a comfortable temperature, comfortable might mean different things to different people. Encouraging staff to wear an extra layer to work will not only help to keep fuel bills down but will mean that staff can self-regulate how warm they are instead of making global changes to the heating that affect everyone.

Employers should also remember that temperature is only part of the issue. Stuffy and poorly ventilated workspaces can be uncomfortable places to work in; and can become a catalyst for colds and other airborne infections. An entire workforce taken down by flu, even just for a few days, may have a greater financial impact than organising a well managed working environment in the first place.

Ultimately, employers have a duty under Health and Safety guidelines to provide a safe working environment. This is bound to have some influence on the workplace temperature, but this will differ for people working in a cold-store and those working in a bakery; so ‘reasonable’ remains the key word.

For help and support with managing your workplace and your duty of care to employees call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

02 March 2018, 12:41