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New Manager needs help with difficult employee

(43 Posts)
newmanager Wed 07-Sep-11 05:09:02

ive namechanged becuase i dont want this to end up as evidence in a hearing or anything <paranoid> though most of you will work out who i am i spose. don't mention my name though.

new job, 2nd week in. when i started my manager talked to me about a particular girl, another member of staff had commented on her timekeeping.

so i like to give people the benefit of the doubt, it was a new place - i was wary of cliqueyness - and i thought maybe my manager and my other member of staff who had both been with the organisation for some time - were being a bit cliquey - and so i resolved to give mahoosive benefit of doubt and make my own mind up.

so i have been noticing big piss take with time, starting later, abusing flexi, using blackberry to put something in calendar 30 mins before due in office to say she is picking something up for work etc..

so i had already spoken to my other members of staff on a 121 basis, informally, trying to get a handle ont heir work on a day to day basis. and thought that i would pick up the timekeeping issue at a meeting i had arranged today - so i am treating everyone equally you see..i think

one staff member back after serious operation and i told her that her welfare was of primary concern - and told her to stop working the extra hours that she does (no financial reward for this, generally love of the job i think)

i mention this for context.

here we are then.....the issue

so i get an e-mail off blackberry this am from said staff member who says that she had to go to hospital becuase her medical problem had re-occured and she was told to go straight in when it did.'

this is a problem non of us officially knew about.

i replied via e-mail very simply 'keep me informed...regards newmanager'

in the afternoon i get another e=mail telling me that she wouldn't be in for the rest of the say

and ....

' i expectd as my manager you would ask how i was and be more concerned'

i told her that i had expected to speak to her in person - in line with policy, and that although i recognise she is in hospital and this isn't feasible, if she could ring me to discuss when she gets out...i went on to wish her a speedy recovery and tell her that if she needed anything to help her back to work to let me know.

she replied she was very unhappy with my e-mail and i quote "you better give me your mobile number then"

this is on my standarde-mail signature as a matter of course - but i did anyway - and i didn't engage any further.

i'm really upset - i an be accused of many things but not caring is definatley not one of them.

So, this is going to be mighty awkward on monday with a back to work procedure to undertake and then sitting 3 feet from each other.

any advice - i'm not clued up on law or anything, my manager is a bit woolly and the hr people are off sick - there is only a hr assistant to guide me

any advice would be most welcome

waitofevidence Wed 07-Sep-11 05:47:58

Sounds like you were being perfectly reasonable but maybe your message seemed a bit terse to her when she was stressed about being ill. I would probably have prefaced it with, "sorry to hear this" or something similar.

In our workplace a text is unacceptable for contacting your manager and you would be expected to phone as soon as possible. If you have an absence management policy you should consult this. It should also be covered in a staff handbook too.

If you are concerned and caring whilst carrying out the back to work interview then she should be ok.

newmanager Wed 07-Sep-11 06:59:50

thank you very much.

our policy states that you must phone - but she said that she was in hospital and therefore couldn't phone.

KenDoddsDadsDog Wed 07-Sep-11 07:09:07

Her way of contact is not great - sounds like she is uses to doing this and noone has tackled her.
My advice is to do a cheery 'care' call to see if she is ok. That's the welfare bit done.
Then do a proper return to work meeting when she is back. In the meeting, take her over the policy for sickness and document it. You also need to be aware of the condition so you can help her to manage it and make necessary adjustments.
She's being confrontational because she wants to make you back off. You actually don't have to be all bleeding heart and care , just look after the welfare of your staff.

newmanager Wed 07-Sep-11 07:15:04

excellent thank you. It hadn't even occured to me to ask about staffs existing conditions. to be fair, she hasnt had a lot of sick at all, she has only been with the company for three months.

i think you are right about her wanting me on the back foot - i thought this myself.

the cheery call is an excellent idea, i will wait to see if she calls in today - although she did state she wasn't coming to a team event via e-mail- the office is still open and i would expect a call - if not a cheery call would be great.

i shouldn't take this personally, i have had some shitty managers, and i just didn't want to be like them

puzzlesum Wed 07-Sep-11 07:24:18

Only been with the company three months? Is she still on probation herself? (She would be at our place). This needs careful handling - of course you want to be supportive of a pre-existing medical condition but on the face of it she sounds like she may be taking the piss and I would say it's very important this not be allowed to slide past the end of probation.

Assuming she really does have a condition where she should go to hospital immediately if it recurs, that's the sort of information you need to have (even though you don't need to know what it is, but occ health might need to work with her at some point).

Just to be clear, the person who is now off sick is the same one you observed taking the piss with timekeeping and giving little notice of events that meant she would have to be late into the office? As Ken says, a return to work interview is vital to set the ground rules and assess the situation. If she brings up the question of you not asking after her welfare you can always point out you didn't want to pry, especially at what may be a difficult time for her - it does read as a deliberate way of getting you to wrongfoot yourself and leave her alone.

Make sure you are clear from the get-go that you want to be firm but fair (with all staff) - your manager just 'pointing out' there was a potential attendance problem doesn't sound brilliantly supportive either. Who's been managing her probation?

newmanager Wed 07-Sep-11 07:33:01

well.... it gets complicated becuase my manager has just returned from mat leave, and another collegue - who i don't know yet - took over the role temporarily. so my manager an only tell me things anecdotely.

so when i started it was an anecdotal ' apparently whilst i was on leave she took the piss' kind of thing. so not helpful.

i want to treat people like adults - we are adults fgs. i don't want to be monitoring bloody time keeping.

thanks for your post, been really helpful - yes i will see how back to work interview goes, then do some performance monitoring and then see about her probationary period

i am also on probation and i don't want my managers to think i am a complete unreasonable person.

good point about not wanting to pry.

Northernlurkerr Wed 07-Sep-11 08:04:01

Golden rules for handling staff issues - ANY issue:

Keep calm

Don't take it personally (easier said than done)

Keep your manager in the loop. Nothing worse than them getting a complaint out of the blue. You need to get them vaguely up to date when you have regular catch ups so that if the employee attempts to play mum off against dad as it were, they are armed and ready to back you up.

Document anything even slightly controversial. I send myself e-mails sometimes - means I have a date and time signature for when I noted something.

Follow your local policies.

Be cunning. I realised my staff had set the office clock a few minutes fast. So I put it right. Then it got fast again hmm. Now I could have had a big row about this and insist they use the clock on their pc for going home or I could be cunning. So I bought a radio controlled clock which cannot be interfered with grin

Treat everybody exactly the same.

Be available to staff to talk. Smile and nod, smile and nod whilst they tell you what's happening with them.

puzzlesum Wed 07-Sep-11 08:06:47

Hmm, it really does sound like you'll need to go off the evidence of your own eyes, then. The anecdotal stuff can't be useful.

I can understand about not monitoring timekeeping - and depending on the role, as long as the work gets done I imagine the exact hours aren't that important. But people do need to be available during core hours, they do need to give reasonable notice of not being available or let you know when something unexpected crops up. If for no other reason than you're going to look daft if a senior manager wants to know where a member of your team is and you have to say: err, dunno.

In terms of you being on probation too, your objectives should include dealing with staff issues arising, so in that sense it would be more unreasonable for you to turn a blind eye to a problem than to try to tackle it. If in doubt, seek advice from your manager and make sure that's all documented as part of the probation too.

Put simply - your job isn't to be liked by your staff, it's to manage them well. The easiest way to manage staff well is to be liked by them, however - but it's not the only way!

newmanager Wed 07-Sep-11 08:10:16

thank you some really really useful pointers here that i shall e-mail myself grin

laracroft2001 Wed 07-Sep-11 16:45:00

if she claims to have a medical problem, I would suggest referring her to occupational health. This protects her if there is a genuine problem, and ensure you are kept in the loop.

R.e the timekeeping etc, I would mention it informally at first, mention any timekeeping issues you have noticed (not what the tittle tattles say) and say how you really like to have a relationship of trust with your employees and hope that won't be abused. If it constantly happens then make it formal.

nothing you said in email was unreasonable, she should have called you not text/emailed. If she could message from hospital she could have called or got a family member/friend to call and fill you in. You are her manager not her best friend so what you responded is perfectly reasonable. Don't get caught up in emailing back and forward as emails and texts can always come across in ways that is not necessarily meant. You are completely correct to keep your replies simple and brief!!

if she has been signed off, or is off sick, I wouldn't personally recommend a cheery call as some picky nippy employees could interpret that as harassment (ive seen it before!). Wait until she comes back to work and deal with it then.

and def dont take it personallY!!!!!!!!

lisad123 Wed 07-Sep-11 16:50:20

I have to day my manager sent a very short message when I texted to say dh had cancer and so wasn't sure what was happening. However, a few days later she sent a more supportive text so think it was more the shock talking, however I would never have been rude to her or email her like that.
Clearly you didn't want to be intrusive and maybe you should make that clear but also texts are nit the right way to let someone know you are sick.

newmanager Thu 08-Sep-11 19:30:12

oh it went horribly - i hate confrontation.

i walked in at 10am [flexi] with a cheery hello and asked if she was alright and feeling better....twice. i offered her a coffee - it was my turn to do the rounds...and a piece of cake to take into the meeting.
still cheery, light etc

to give a flavour - she said things like

' i don't want to come to work to make friends'

[really? no you come to make enemies?]

'...i come to work to be professional, i dont expect you to care about me in any other capacity but i do expect you to care as my manager'

'...what you call professional...i call kurt'

'i realise this can be classed as an unauthorised absence but this is what i will have to do becuase my health comes first'

' i don't have anyone else to contact you my family all live in scotland'

'...the backstabbing and gossip in this place has caused stress which i think has induced this sickness'

anyway, i work in an environment where i meet all kinds of strange people - i am not naive when it comes to the weird and wonderful.

but i have never come across anything like this

i used all of your advice - but she's a meanie

KenDoddsDadsDog Thu 08-Sep-11 20:34:37

Oh dear! She has obviously got away with murder by being 'difficult' and then making stress insinuations to make people back off. Put her through the process every time, document everything. And no more cake smile

NewManager Thu 08-Sep-11 22:36:45

it gets better. the chief exec has direct departmental responability for HR and as such she is entitled to go straight to him with concerns.

so she says that the illness - which affects one eye, was caused by backstabbing work stress

i have only worked there 2 weeks!!

but i need true law hr advice becuase i asked her what i could do to ease her back into work and she said

her desk facing a collegue is also facing a window and this causes her eye pain

- i offered to try and move her and she said that i would cause dischord in the office - i don't win here - im either not looking out for her welfare and health or i am contributing to cliquey bullying and deteriorating her health

i offered an OT she declined but said she would revisit

but here sthe kicker - i need law advise on

its a elativel small organisation - about 50 employees.

she needs to drive for some parts of her job

i aksed her if she is clear to drive - she said yes - what proof shoud i ask for - am i legally allowed to ask for?

if genuine, i dont want her to drive with eye problems - or can you drive with one eye? lord i'm in over my head with shit all HR and i dont know what to do about her workstation or drivng issue

please help

NewManager Thu 08-Sep-11 22:40:05


If you have had retinal treatment in one eye
If you have had retinal treatment on one eye - you will not need to tell DVLA about your medical condition provided you have no other medical condition in the untreated eye.
If you have had retinal treatment in both eyes
If you have had retinal treatment in both eyes - you will need to tell DVLA about your medical condition.

NewManager Thu 08-Sep-11 22:40:38

Stream of conssiousness i can refer to

NewManager Thu 08-Sep-11 22:45:19

found it

NewManager Thu 08-Sep-11 22:58:23

i have left the HSE a question

quite scared i might be dismissed

HomeEcoGnomist Thu 08-Sep-11 23:04:40

I am an HR Manager.
I would insist she is referred to occ health - making those kind of statements does not allow her to back off once she's had her reaction (making you panic and feel like she's untouchable)

Employers have a duty to make REASONABLE adjustments to accomodate diability (if indeed she falls under that definition) You can determine what these are once you've had medical advice from an expert (ie not you, not her but a healthcare practitioner) to inform you and your actions

In some ways, you should feel that you are in a stronger position because you can say 'clearly I don't know what has happened in the past, so let's start our working relationship in the same way we mean to carry on. This is how I operate...these are my expectations...these things are major issues for me....these things I am relaxed about....this is how I will deal with issues...'

You are her manager - you are allowed to MANAGE

Don't be spooked, state your position clearly, act promptly & fairly and you will be fine
(Even if she has passed her probation period - either actively or by default - you effectuvly have 12 months to dismiss someone wihtout too much concern, as long as it is not for a discriminatory reason)

It's character building :-)

HomeEcoGnomist Thu 08-Sep-11 23:06:08

Oh, and if you don't think she should be driving, suspend her from those duties (get her to do something else) until the issue is clarified - your company could be exposed to vicarious liability if she had an accident.

StealthPolarBear Thu 08-Sep-11 23:09:36

her desk facing a collegue is also facing a window and this causes her eye pain
Is there anyone who is trained to do a formal DSE assessment?

- i offered to try and move her and she said that i would cause dischord in the office - i don't win here - im either not looking out for her welfare and health or i am contributing to cliquey bullying and deteriorating her health

i offered an OT she declined but said she would revisit
Insist - you can

MadamDeathstare Fri 09-Sep-11 00:47:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

laracroft2001 Fri 09-Sep-11 07:46:03

refer straight to occupational health x

BerylStreep Fri 09-Sep-11 22:52:02

Good advice here.

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