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Am in a bit of a ^situation^ and could use some advice

(18 Posts)
Haint Mon 30-Oct-17 11:22:37

I started working here 8 months ago. It was meant to be an "easy" local, flexible, minimal responsibility position following my redundancy.

It's a small local business, nine employees, most of whom have been here 20 years +. There is no formal set up, no contracts, no job descriptions, no procedures or standards.
Each of the nine people perform a distinct role, there is some cross over between them but not much.

One member of staff is incredibly difficult to work with, volatile, lazy and their attendance record is abysmal (30+ days sickness / short notice leave in addition to annual leave allowance in 10 months). They are, when they are here , very good at their job, it's also a very niche role.

It's a high pressure environment but the behaviour and conduct of this employee makes it worse.

Another employee (who is wholeheartedly a nicer person and more reliable) has reached breaking point.

She has sent me an email this morning basically saying she cannot carry on, feels unsupported and has no confidence that things will ever improve. She's taking some time off,doesn't know when / if she'll be back. She is pretty much irreplaceable - even more niche skills

My whole role in this is a bit grey, i was recruited as a PA / bookkeeper but the business owner has no management skill, nor interest in managing people. They've rubbed along for so long, but look to me for... i don't know..leadership, discipline, decision making etc. yet resist any of my attempts to impose any kind of professional standards or methods of operating.

The obvious answer is to get rid of the difficult employee, but easier said than done. I've tried speaking to her, she is defensive, emotional, it's entirely impossible to have a professional and reasoned conversation with her. She has a difficult personal life (i am sympathetic) but is unable to separate work from home. Other employees (who have known her for 20 years) think she exaggerates her issues and uses them as an excuse to take time off.

So i have this morning had a meeting with her - an initial formal warning, to be followed by a written warning when (if) things don't improve. She shouted, cried, refused to take any responsibility. I know she will now be meek and mild for a few weeks until next time...

I need to know what i say to the employee who's taken some time off. I'm faintly pissed off she's dropped us in it by not being here, and feel a bit uncomfortable with the ultimatum (her or me) she's given. However i can totally see that she isn't willing to put up with the shitstorm most days here are because of the other employee.

This is too long already but there is so much more

bananafanana1 Mon 30-Oct-17 11:27:39

Are you allowed to give her a formal warning if you’re not her manager?

KavvLar Mon 30-Oct-17 11:31:18

Bloody hell that sounds difficult. Is HR management in your portfolio, do any of the staff ever have appraisals, is there a management chain?

It sounds like the business is lacking structure and basic HR framework which is surely down to the owner to instigate? Is there any mileage in meeting with them (owner) and thrashing out a way forward? Can they outsource the HR?

Otherwise you are hamstrung by a lack of support and clarity in your own role which will make it very difficult to enforce disciplinary issues.

KavvLar Mon 30-Oct-17 11:36:25

Basically the sub standard employee needs to be managed effectively according to her own contract and deliverables.

If their sickness is over trigger points there should be a process to follow. If their behaviour is not acceptable there should be a process to follow.

It should be supportive to the business and to the employee with possible adjustments considered, but ultimately lead to either significant improvement or dismissal.

The 'good' employee is a separate issue and should be treated as such. If they are regularly asked to take on more work than is possible to do, the business should look at that I guess, not focus on the employee who is calling in sick and make it a personal thing.

Just thinking out loud so apologies for stream of consciousness.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Mon 30-Oct-17 11:37:51

What are you doing?! That is so NOT the obvious answer!

The obvious answer is to pass it over to the manager to sort out and start looking for a new job yourself as it's not going to get better. You need to extract yourself from this mess asap.

You really can't just haul people in and give them warnings without following a proper process including honouring rights like the right to be accompanied and given reasonable notice. I'm ignoring the fact you're not even this person's manager because that's so far from acceptable I don't even know what to say. What were you thinking?!

You are clearly in over your head and don't know what you're doing. You are going to end up getting yourself into trouble. You have identified this person as the problem, yet she has long service and nobody has ever pulled her up on this before - why do you think you can intervene and just get rid of her? At the moment you've got another person who is effectively AWAL which is a breech of contract but you don't even realise that is an issue.


elelfrance Mon 30-Oct-17 11:48:56

In the nicest way possible, I echo what MovingOnUp is saying - you could end up in a world of trouble by doing what you're suggesting without any "official" authority to do it.
The business owner needs to manage this, 100%

Haint Mon 30-Oct-17 12:01:30

There are no processes, no contracts, no managers, no targets, no measurement of deliverables, no appraisals, no anything. They are a bunch of people in a room doing a job for an owner who is entirely disinterested in providing any management or leadership

It's not me who has identified her as a problem. She is universally and openly loathed. The entire lot of them are stuck in a cycle where it reaches a crescendo, there is shouting, banging doors, tears then it calms down until next time. The only thing that has changed this time is that 'good' employee is threatening to throw in the towel.

They're more of a dysfunctional family than an actual, normal workplace

I get that you are reacting from a position of experience in 'normal' companies and 'usual' set ups. This is not one of them

And no, i'm no HR representative, i'm an archaeologist shock

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Mon 30-Oct-17 12:51:46

I get that you are reacting from a position of experience in 'normal' companies and 'usual' set ups. This is not one of them.

Well there's an unfounded assumption. You know nothing about me or my experience.

As it happens I'm the handsomely paid poor sod who's brought in to deal with messes like you describe when it all goes wrong. It's always worse when there's a well meaning person who has interfered because it usually gives people ammunition to use at a tribunal where there would not necessarily have been before.

You wouldn't start messing with the company accounts or the electrics so why do you think it's ok to mess with matters related to employment that you clearly have no expertise in?

flowery Mon 30-Oct-17 13:14:52

I agree completely with what MovingOnUp said.

Employment law doesn't just apply to "normal" companies and "usual" set ups. Just because there aren't any written procedures doesn't mean you don't need to follow a proper procedure.

daisychain01 Mon 30-Oct-17 16:06:09

Don’t get involved, it’s way beyond your pay grade.

Pass it to the manager to deal with this employee. You should not be doing their duties for them, it gets them off the hook and you could possibly lose your job, if things all turn nasty.

elelfrance Mon 30-Oct-17 16:39:05

In the end up, the Owner is paying you all to do something , and if people will no longer do that something , then it is the Owner's place to sort that out.
Flowery is right, employment law applies in any situation where someone is being paid to do a job, regardless of the structure

Pumpkintopf Mon 30-Oct-17 16:45:04

Op it doesn’t sound as though you’ve in any way followed (national, legal) proper process in any of this. Regardless of there not being company policy on this, the company IS still subject to UK employment law. You will be potentially gifting this difficult employee an expensive ET claim against your employer. Please listen to the excellent advice you’ve already been given above.

thatstoast Mon 30-Oct-17 16:46:18

They're more of a dysfunctional family than an actual, normal workplace

You are included in that dynamic. You cannot give a colleague a 'formal' warning and threaten them with a written warning when you have absolutely no authority to do so.

TheMerryWidow1 Mon 30-Oct-17 16:48:28

very dangerous ground OP, please do not take this any further!!!

rizlett Mon 30-Oct-17 16:49:38

The fact that there are no processes op just makes it all the more likely you will get into trouble if you attempt to manage this any further.

This is not the kind of position you were looking for and it's not your problem to resolve.

Explain this to your manager asap and leave them to do [or not do] what they are paid to be responsible for.

Ploppie4 Mon 30-Oct-17 16:55:43

Email the boss with all the details and let him proceed.

It’s good the nice lady has drawn a line. Means she has self respect

Haint Mon 30-Oct-17 18:34:31

I perhaps have not been clear regarding my area of responsibility. I am the only non technical employee. I am expected to deal with all non technical functions including this kind of —shit— issue

The owner asked me to speak to her to highlight the areas of concern, following umpteen, lengthy conversations between him / me / her/ other employees about what to do and how to do it. which I have done (the meeting I have mentioned).

We’ve had numerous informal discussions (bad employee and me) where I have gently drawn her attention to her attendance record and behaviour towards other employees and listened to her reasons why. This was an attempt to formalise these concerns and ask for a commitment to improve.

The owner is unwilling / unable to speak to her himself as their relationship has degenerated to a degree where they are unable to have a civil conversation (indeed anyone finds it difficult to have a civil conversation with her apart from me. And perhaps now not even me).

I totally take on board everything you’ve said regarding legislation. This is a small, old, rural business and attempting to instill any kind of professionalism or usual business practice is a bit like turning around a container ship. They’ve operated this way for 30 years. Me banging on about processes and protocols is viewed slightly humerously both by the employees and the owner though they surely must appreciate it is the lack of these that’s got them into the current predicament.

Anyway, I think in my attempt to not make my original post 4 pages long and actually I wasn’t asking about her I’m more worried about how to deal with the now absent better employee, I have perhaps given the impression I am blundering unasked into a situation that does not involve me. This is not the case

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 30-Oct-17 18:56:19

Haint I arrived in a much longer established business without proper protocols and quickly realised I needed good HR help.
I pay for external HR support, they drew up contracts, created handbook etc, they also provide 24/7 support in just your kind of situation.
It is the best money I spend in the business as they guide me through how to deal with situations and if it does end up in ET as long as I have followed there advice.
It costs a few hundred pounds a year which is a lot less than ETs can end up costing.
It maybe worth presenting your boss with this idea. Also once staff realised we had proper HR support a lot of the casual petty behaviours stopped as they knew it would no longer be tolerated.

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