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Advice on whether I need a union, retraining or a hug

(23 Posts)
NorthernNobody Fri 16-Nov-12 18:29:11

I'm a manager of a small team. Management style has always been with a light touch and encouraging the staff. I'd like to think they are happy at work and can approach me. I think we are a good one

This one member is causing me many sleepless nights and I just don't know how to handle her.

She is currently undergoing a review by HR because of recurrent sickness (public sector, prolonged process, she is being given a lot of support and all usual public sector avenues are being explored to tackle the sickness).

She has always been difficult but I've 'managed' this non confrontationally with informal conversations. With hindsight possibly I'm just an inadequate doormat. Her behaviour has now stepped up a gear and is no longer tolerable/acceptable or manageable (for me).

Currently we are alone in an office together. I make polite conversation and she responds mostly ...unless she feels like ignoring me. I offer her a tea when I make one. She refuses and never offers me one. She is making repeated mistakes - inexplicable mistakes which I suspect are due to attitude (cba) rather than ability. I try tackling these recurrent mistakes in a variety of ways and never receive a positive response.

At her appraisal last week we had to defer it because she had not attempted the paperwork which is required pre appraisal (listing CPD activity and asking for evidence of how she is working - standard paperwork for public sector). She had been given loads and loads of time for this activity

Written down this all sounds really clear. She's being difficult in attitude, unco-operative and also failing to perform well at her role. I'm apparently failing at managing this.

I have asked for HR input. HR have privately commented to me that she has a behaviour problem and want me to tackle this (yes but how!!) Despite a plea for advice today I have heard nothing. I feel very isolated. Management structure above me is unclear (hard to explain) but I don't have anyone obvious to defer to. I'm managed by a specialist in my field with no HR experience and no intention of becoming involved.

I'm exhausted at making so much effort to try to change her behaviour. A fortnight ago I decided to change tack and was 'firm' and fairly short with her. I felt better (relief not to have to plaster a neutral face on) but atmosphere with neither of us trying was obviously going to deteriorate very fast. I do not wish to mimic her negative behaviour either. I am concerned that she is provoking me waiting for any little slip up that she can grab - fully expecting her to claim bullying so am treading warily (no witnesses)

I am considering how much longer I can cope (yet need my job) I haven't been sleeping, am questioning my own ability and wake thinking of her. Help

hermioneweasley Fri 16-Nov-12 18:35:34

Your HR dept need to help you with this, and advise you on how to manage this within their policy. In a private company she would have a short timeframe to choose her attitude and perform or be dismissed. Don't know with public sector though!

hermioneweasley Fri 16-Nov-12 18:36:09

Your HR dept need to help you with this, and advise you on how to manage this within their policy. In a private company she would have a short timeframe to choose her attitude and perform or be dismissed. Don't know with public sector though!

HappyAsASandboy Fri 16-Nov-12 18:44:29

I can't offer any advice, but I'm public sector and in the same position as you. It's hard because the HR policies all say 'the manager must deal with this' but when you actually speak to them for advice, they say its all at your discretion and it'll be you in the tribunal if you screw up! I have been astounded at the lasck of support for managers when it's needed (have been managing for years with no problems, only recently actually needed help from HR to tackle a problem).

Good luck!

NorthernNobody Fri 16-Nov-12 18:58:38

I could kiss you Happy

This is exactly how I feel. Not sure what HR actually do.......load the gun and then leave you to fire the bullets but then I seem to be in the dock at the same time because it's my failure to 'manage' her.

Hermione -my personal feeling is that her behaviour is unacceptable and it's disgusting that public money is being wasted. She's not fulfilling her role to even 40%. She seems to be blatantly testing the boundaries and all of our policies talk about offering support to her but the bit about what happens if she doesn't choose to change her attitude is 'woolly'

I feel despairing

NorthernNobody Fri 16-Nov-12 19:02:21

I've been scanning policies for performance managing, sickness review, conducting appraisals, disciplinary and bullying....and am not sure whether I see myself applying the policy or having it applied!

ginmakesitallok Sat 17-Nov-12 07:09:08

You have to step up I'm afraid. You say that you are managing things "informally" - well it's time to get formal (to cover your back as much as to sort her out). Speak to her on Monday (or whenever you are next in) - explain that you are not happy with her performance. Make sure it's all written down. Get HR advice about starting capability proceedings.

prh47bridge Sat 17-Nov-12 09:18:09

Agree with ginmakesitallok. If an informal approach is not working you need to get formal. She needs to understand that her behaviour is not acceptable and ultimately, if it does not improve, will lead to her being dismissed. She also needs to know what assistance is available to help her improve and meet the performance targets.

LivesInJeans Sat 17-Nov-12 09:24:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MainlyMaynie Sat 17-Nov-12 19:42:17

You need to start formal performance management procedures. It depends whether you have brought these things up before, but if you have I'd be using her appraisal to be pretty blunt about her performance and set some very clear targets for her. I find it most effective to focus on one aspect of underperformance, bringing up the whole lot is too overwhelming for both of you and it's easier to descend into potential bullying accusations. I'd pick the issue which is most easily measured and monitored and say you will be having monthly review meetings. Give it 3 months to move to the next stage of the process. Tell her at the appraisal that you are looking to use formal performance management procedures which can ultimately lead to dismissal if she doesn't improve.

Sickness can be dealt with outside of the appraisal, but I would make it an appraisal target to achieve whatever HR wants her to with that.

I'd also look at switching the office arrangements, can you squeeze someone else in there?

Soopermum1 Sat 17-Nov-12 21:54:41

Agree with the others, make it formal. Harden your heart. Make everything measureable. When you ask her to do a piece of work and set a deadline/ standard against it. You sound like a fair sort, so I'm sure these will be reasonable targets. Make everything as clear as you can so you can't be accused of being 'woolly'. You don't have to be a total bitch about it, just cool, calm and professional. Once you've been acting like this for a few weeks you'll settle into the approach and feel more comfortable with it. Look at it as good experience for you as a Manager, she is not the first and last person like this you'll have to deal with (unfortunately.)

NorthernNobody Sat 17-Nov-12 22:08:38

I'd just like to thank everyone for their advice.

My fears were
a) being unfair (because I recognise it now feels personal)
b) being accused of bullying because I think she's trying to trip me up
c) starting the process without it being confrontational

I've now got a plan!

Separate it from sickness procedure - completely separate issue
Formally start capability management.
Request HR and any other manager to become involved - involve them with copies of letters if they don't!
Be clear about expectations, current performance and future goals. Set review date.

FadBook Sat 17-Nov-12 22:11:30

Take a 'Doc Martin' approach. Remove the emotion entirely and clearly explain the issue(s), solution and consequence if things don't change. Then continue to be 'normal' on a day to day basis.

Don't let this person control your emotions- they're the one with the attitude problem which ultimately will mean, if they don't change it, they'll loose their job.

NorthernNobody Sat 17-Nov-12 22:22:13

I've developed a 'normal' at work which is working but obviously taking it's toll.

This thread is helping me organise my thoughts and recognise what's affecting my behaviour. It's helpful because I can see a way forward with it

gallicgirl Sat 17-Nov-12 22:30:59

Do you have any kind of mentoring or peer support in your workplace?
Sometimes it's really useful to just chat situations over confidentially with another manager to see what they would do. If you don't, maybe suggest to HR that they could start one!

My first reaction would be that you need to set really clear targets, hopefully these can be agreed targets rather than targets you impose. Make sure your member of staff understands what the targets are, how they will be measured and checked and what the consequences are of not meeting those targets.

Meet with this person regularly to discuss progress (maybe monthly) but I would feed back targets weekly so she knows where she's heading.

If she doesn't participate in this process or show signs of improving, then you can start heading towards formal competency procedures which HR will support you with.

Happy to email you a blank example of the appraisal form we use if you think that will help. Can't promise it will because it's a bit hit and miss in my organisation!

NorthernNobody Sat 17-Nov-12 22:49:32

None gallic! This is half the problem. I haven't been given an appraisal... since 2007 or 2008?

We have all the policies but they are really complicated. I feel they have been written focusing on having a written policy mentioning every relevant legislature rather than having a policy that can be used, if this makes sense.

I've just googled performance management and got a really clear guide.

Thank you

gallicgirl Sat 17-Nov-12 23:24:15

Can you please PM me who you work for so I know not to apply for a job there?!

I hope you get the situation sorted. It's so difficult when you work in a small office and someone doesn't play ball. It makes work really uncomfortable for everyone.

Good luck

PS: you might find the Ten Minute Manager books helpful.

NorthernNobody Sun 18-Nov-12 00:13:16


It's NHS When it works, it works well and there are lots of committed staff. But more by luck and commitment than organisation I suspect. Managing properly takes time and that's time away from patients. I'm trying but feel short on time and unsupported. I do feel narked because the majority of staff are committed patient focused etc but one bad egg can cast a big smell!

Managing properly is essential when there are staff issues... Staff issues means more pressure on time...vicious circle. I'm not excusing or shirking. It's just how it is. I'm going to work tomorrow, unpaid extra day solely to find time to sort this issue out which doesn't mean taking time away from patient care.

I had an op recently (day case) and asked who wanted my sick note.... No one. That isn't normal for the NHS I should say. All my staff have sick notes, proper records and return to work interviews. Two staff currently on review because of ill health. One having access to work support. All legit ill health being managed appropriately. All my staff up to date with appraisals and mandatory training. I just don't have a clear management structure for me. I have queried this and been told they trust me, I don't need it etc.
I sort my own leave, training etc. I am always up to date and ahead of the game clinically and organisationally... Hence the trust and I'm left alone. Normally fine. Not right now and my pleas for support are taking time to be responded to.

I'll look at that book. smile

Bigwuss Sun 18-Nov-12 08:30:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ginmakesitallok Sun 18-Nov-12 09:15:38

Where do you get your clinical supervision from??

NorthernNobody Sun 18-Nov-12 18:31:27

Clinical supervision is normally weekly with a specialist in my field. That specialist is not trained in HR or's purely clinical. I do discuss the wider issues and receive sympathy.

I've worked today and feel much better about taking it forward. Bigwuss - I can give documents and e-mailed evidence and probably team meeting minutes on specific issues. I can also remind her of discussions both recent and historical concerning the issues. We have written policies - both national and local outlining expectations in detail. In practice those policies (like most I suspect) need reinforcement and training in action - that has occured but isn't documented as .... Discussed topic A - 16/11/12 anywhere. Persistent issues tend to be documented in staff meetings as a reminder to all

chocolatesolveseverything Mon 19-Nov-12 15:46:35

Hi NorthernNobody,

Is there anywhere you can get some training in the 'soft skills' of performance management and having difficult conversations? Written policies are all very well, but it's awful when you're trying to apply them with an employee who tries to skirt round issues and dodge the bullet so to speak - and from one you've said so far I suspect the person you're dealing with is one of them. In my experience, being taught good techniques for how to say things, what to do when the employee doesn't respond well, how to manage 'counter-accusations' and suchlike in a fair but firm way, is all incredibly helpful!

NorthernNobody Mon 19-Nov-12 18:18:43

chocolate - I would definitely benefit from that. I have zero experience with out and out defiance/sabotaging. Obviously I have worked with difficult colleagues but none where I've felt unable to manage them

Not currently provided internally but I will google.

Update - I have garnered support from 3 different sources today including clinical supervisor ( I may walk... seemed to attract attention!) Am anticipating a bit of support/action and progress.

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