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To be irritated by work (petty, boring, long - not selling this am I?)

(62 Posts)
catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 19:58:04

Yesterday my work announced there would be a brainstorming meeting in the work canteen to get ideas from staff on a new project at 1pm and sandwiches would be provided. All staff were invited to attend.

Before the meeting my HR Officer e-mailed me to say a member of staff had asked if they could still take a lunch if they attended this as they wanted to be involved but had an errand to do in their lunch break. Lunch breaks are unpaid.

I ummed a bit and then let her know as we were providing sandwiches it was one or the other really. I didn't plan on attending the meeting as I had arranged to take a colleague out to lunch at 12pm.

At 1pm the Marketing Manager who was hosting the meeting came and asked me if I would come any way as I am partly involved in the project and she specifically wanted my input. I said 'well, it's a bit awkward as I've just told xx that it's one or the other, but if you need me there I will come up'.

About 10 staff attended the meeting.

Today it transpires about half had gone on lunch, then attended the meeting from 1pm till 1:45. None of them ate any sandwiches as they had already eaten.

Maybe a bit mickey-taking but not the end of the world.

It gets back to the two partners who apparantly have gone batshit angry about it.

They tell the Marketing Manager to e-mail everyone saying they are 'disgusted' yadda yadda. She drafts an e-mail saying the Partners are dissapointed by the situation and although she didn't explicitly tell people it was to be taken as lunch she had thought the provision of sandwiches would have implied this sufficiently.

She is then told by the Senior Partners PA the e-mail isn't good enough (not a severe enough bollocking I think) and this will be dealt with 'a different way'.

I am at a level that it won't really affect me personally and I am unlikely to get a bollocking over it but it just strikes me as petty.

Apparantly the 2 partners have spent the entire day frothing about this.

To me, people are not paid for lunch. If we want them to attend a meeting and contribute the fact it is held at 1pm rather than say 10am or 4pm isn't really an issue. The fact a few grotty sandwiches were on the table doesn't make it less 'work' than any other meeting. People are entitled to a break during the day even if we give them a sandwich.

Mainly, I just think they should have more important things to froth about and the way to deal with this is to either not have lunchtime meetings or make it clear next time in the invite that people are not to take a lunch as well as attend.

I will end up getting involved at some point as HR falls under my remit but I just don't think it's a big enough deal to be such a major issue with frothing at the top level and words like 'disgusted' being thrown about.

It just narks me. AIBU to be irritated by the pettiness and tell them to chill the fuck out (worded a touch differently) or do I just hate it so much I am overly annoyed by nothing at all?

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 21:33:21

Ummmmmm.........I think you may have mis-read my OP worry

The thing I am annoyed about is the reaction of the Partners, not people having a lunch confused

WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 01-May-13 21:37:41

I meant that you were BU to only be irritated by this. I have had too crap bosses who have abused their position of authority to bully staff into working through lunch, staying late etc. For the poor sod who has to live with this on a low salary it is more than just irritating.

Are you in a position to make sure that the fall out doesnt affect the staff?

WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 01-May-13 21:41:05

I didnt mean it as a serious YABU more a case that irritation would seem an under reaction for junior staff receiving an 'we are disgusted by your behaviour' type email or even something worse.

LessMissAbs Wed 01-May-13 21:45:25

Well the Working Time Regulations specify that a break should be given if the normal working day is being worked. I guess in some firms/companies, where there is a very close relationship between staff and management, employees might decide to forego their lunchbreak. It doesn't sound like the partners have created that sort of atmosphere. Quite bad behaviour on their part. Along with their own lack of communication. You might also argue that sending of a "disgusted" email by them might constitute a breach of the employer-employee common law duty of trust and confidence.

theoriginalandbestrookie Wed 01-May-13 21:49:20

Actually it's a bit odd that HR thought to e-mail you about it. Surely they should be more aware than anyone about the requirement for staff to have a break.

I agree you need to be very careful how to approach this. You could perhaps email the person from HR (who even though you didn't call the meeting decided that you should take responsibility for someone attending) and clarify politely if staff are required to have a break ( which if they are working more than 6 hrs they are indeed).

Then armed with the email from HR state that they need to handle this carefully as it's a Health and Safety issue as flagged by HR ( which hopefully takes the onus off you).

Honestly though they are liberty takers. As if a few curly sarnies makes up for having an unpaid lunch break. I only get one a week as I work reduced hours and I have a myriad of chores to complete in that time.

Viviennemary Wed 01-May-13 21:53:40

People are entitled to take their lunch break. This compulsory meeting at lunchtimes is nothing short of bullying. The management were in the wrong insisting people give up their lunch time for a meeting whether it was in the canteen or on the roof.

nenevomito Wed 01-May-13 21:59:55

Making people work through their lunchtime is not on. I'm used to doing it, but I wouldn't expect my staff to do it, even for a sandwich. I'm paid to put up with that kind of bollocks. They get an hour of their own time.

nenevomito Wed 01-May-13 22:01:02

The partners can't be that busy if they have a whole day to get frothed up about something that they were wrong about in the first place.

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 22:02:00

Ahhhhh...sorry worry I get you now.

tbh, I am more than irritation. I just despair sad

HR asked me as I have responsibility for the HR department. It's a constant juggling act between what's right, what's legal and what the Partners want

I am going to make sure the staff don't get any flack for this and that the Partners know they were out of line. I am thinking of phrasing it along the lines of

"I heard about the issue yesterday.........XX must have the wrong end of the stick as from what I heard it sounded like we were reprimanding people for attending a meeting and telling them they couldnt have a lunch instead of asking them if they'd be good enough to give up their free time..."

WorrySighWorrySigh Wed 01-May-13 22:13:00

You have my sympathies catgirl, the stink from this sort of thing does tend to linger.

The Partners fail to understand why junior members of staff arent thrilled at the opportunity to give up their lunch break to give ideas to the management for which there will be no reward or recognition. I dont know how people get to be so oblivious to the motivational needs of others.

MrsPoglesWood Wed 01-May-13 22:16:50

My employers tried this one. But they didn't offer sandwiches - it was 'bring a sandwich to the seminar" and of course there were no takers so it has pretty much died a death thankfully. A lunch break is a lunch break. A break from work to eat, relax and re-charge your batteries for the rest of the working day.

If you're a senior exec on film star wages then perhaps it doesn't really matter but if you're not it feels like your own time is being stolen. There is no way I will spend my lunch break - which I am not being paid for - attending meetings without taking time in lieu. If I really have to attend a meeting over the lunch hours, which is sometimes necessary, then I will take a break before or after. There's no bloody way I would just do without and neither would I let my staff.

KenDoddsDadsDog Wed 01-May-13 22:17:25

Tell the partners they need to work on their framing skills. If they had engaged their staff to understand why they needed to do the meeting, they would have turned up because they wanted to. Easy.
They can't get cross because they haven't displayed effective leadership.

MrsPoglesWood Wed 01-May-13 22:36:02

Exactly what KenDoddsDadsDog said. Staff are not engaged enough to bother or put themselves out. Why is that? Is it because they think that management don't give a monkey's about them? Don't listen to them? Just dictate to them?

A fully engaged and motivated workforce who feel that management are right behind them and really value, recognise and reward their input, efforts and innovation will go the extra mile. If your management team don't do any of that then they are flogging a dead horse and they will lose their best workers to other companies eventually. Enforced lunchtime meetings will probably just make it happen more quickly.

Where on earth did these people learn management theory - if they ever did? Stuff like this is given as negative examples in management studies as being demotivating and stiffling innovation, empowerment and organisational cohesion. Bonkers!

catgirl1976 Wed 01-May-13 23:06:12

That's exactly it

The think staff should fall to their knees with excitement because they get the honour of giving their input and a curly old sandwich

Never occurs to them that we should appreciate their input or their time hmm and let them know it's valued. angry

LessMissAbs Wed 01-May-13 23:26:22

Is it a law firm OP?

MrsPoglesWood Wed 01-May-13 23:39:55

My employer has convened a Staff Input Group to canvass views as to the best ways to motivate and engage staff. They meet monthly and discuss honestly how various departmental/management initiatives are affecting staff.

It has a direct reporting line into our Director and has resulted in some changes. Our Director is pretty good but because he is so senior I don't think he had a clue about the petty regulations that didn't affect him that were actually hampering our staff from working effectively.

We have a way to go but we're getting there.

MidniteScribbler Thu 02-May-13 04:31:48

People are legally entitled to take a break. Providing sandwiches does not make something a break. I've worked in firms like this, and it really does fester and affects staff morale and creates a toxic work environment. Let people take their breaks, and let everyone stop work an hour early and provide some friday afternoon drinkies and you'll start seeing some ideas flow.

mirai Thu 02-May-13 04:38:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mirai Thu 02-May-13 04:42:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

letseatgrandma Thu 02-May-13 07:09:35

I have to say that I agree with Mirai-I'm confused. What is your role in this workplace? You are giving HR advice on working policy-why are they asking you? Why are you giving them incorrect information? Why is it up to you to sort it out?

letseatgrandma Thu 02-May-13 07:12:15

I've just read your OP again-you weren't even planning on attending this meeting (that you expected staff to give up their unpaid lunch for) because you were taking a colleague out to lunch; that would have been popular!!

Llareggub Thu 02-May-13 07:44:54

Your problem has arisen but no reasonable person would expect a work meeting to replace their break, because it isn't a break. I've chaired many meetings that take place over the lunch period, mainly due to the diary commitments of others, and sarnies have been provided as a way of thanking people for meeting when they could be eating (or doing whatever people do at lunch!)

If you want to engage staff then it needs a lot more thinking through. Where were the leadership team in all of this?

Jinsei Thu 02-May-13 08:34:07

Presumably HR was asking the OP because they report to her. And the OP advised according to what she thought the partners expected, rather than her own personal opinion, because she is employed to implement company policy. Yes, in hindsight, perhaps she should have clarified and challenged expectations prior to the meeting, and told the partners that they were BU, but she didn't know how it was all going to pan out.

I think the partners were taking the piss to expect low paid staff to attend a meeting during their break, but it does sound as if the meeting was very optional in nature - clearly not a three line whip to be there. So I can understand why OP made the call that she did, even if in hindsight it wasn't the right one.

Dubjackeen Thu 02-May-13 08:48:20

Wow,that will really motivate people to give their all... First to be expected to give up their unpaid lunch break, and then to get an email attacking them for not doing so.
FWIW in that situation, I would have taken my lunch break and then gone to the meeting, and would not see that as 'mickey taking'. I think some employers, including my own, seem to have adopted the attitude that anything goes, because of the economic climate that we are in.
OP, I would suggest that you use whatever influence you have to ensure that no email is sent to staff, apart from thanking them for attending meeting, their input etc, then kill this idea of meetings at lunch break.

LineRunner Thu 02-May-13 09:27:32

Catgirl, I'd also make it clear that by 'taking a lunch' you mean taking a break at lunchtime, rather than taking a meal. Otherwise it'll stay pointlessly fixated on the sandwiches, whereas it is really about time.

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