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Are they overreacting or have I been unfair?

(45 Posts)
Haripo Mon 30-Oct-17 15:32:23

I'll try and keep this short.

I recently had a bit of a re-design of my team's office making a few desk changes to optimise performance. I met and consulted with the staff first as I didn't want to just do the move before speaking to all staff affected. On the whole - 95% of the team were happy with the proposals, apart from 2 who were being moved from sitting in the corner at the back of the room to 2 middle desks.

I did the seating plan and took into account their needs, placing one of them directly next to the window. This member of staff chose not to sit there as refused to have their back to the office door - they're in the middle so not directly on top of the door - so swapped seats with her supervisor.

Since the move I've had nothing but complaints relating to the staff who are now sitting where they were originally sitting. I met with them, but one of them refused to come to the meeting and I have given her every opportunity to come and speak to me first-hand. Today I am off site trying to complete an urgent audit and I've had a barrage of emails from one of them about the office and now they've gone home sick.

I don't think I have treated these 2 staff members unfairly and I don't believe requesting them to move desks is an unreasonable requests. It's their choice not to sit where I originally intended for them to seat.

It's just every day I am getting complaints about it and it's beginning to drive me mad - I've offered to meet with them tomorrow, but they've come back and said what's the point. One of them now is suggesting that they will apply for another vacancy within the team, which I've said I'm happy to support their application for, but they would need to be aware that the new job would also be in the current office with a similar seating arrangement.

I'm beginning to question my judgement or are they just being bloody difficult!

MissConductUS Mon 30-Oct-17 15:38:06

I think that employees in the UK get a lot of coddling that they'd never receive elsewhere, certainly not in the US.

I think they are just being difficult.

PuppyMonkey Mon 30-Oct-17 15:41:42

I think I need a diagram. grin

Why did you not want them sitting at the back/ in the corner any more?

Haripo Mon 30-Oct-17 15:46:09

I moved them because the audio typsts were having trouble hearing sitting in the middle of the office being sandwiched between 2 busy team phones. So I moved the audio typists to the back so they could hear better and them to the middle. Their job doesn't involve havign to listen to dictation - that is the only reason. The back of the office is a lot quieter.

MissConductUS Mon 30-Oct-17 16:00:18

Is this dictation for medical transcription? Doctors are the only people left in the world who don't do their own typing.

Haripo Mon 30-Oct-17 16:04:02

haha yes it is!

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Mon 30-Oct-17 16:04:13

There a recent case about a woman who won a tribunal for basically not wanting to move desks. Personally I thought it was ridiculous and I am hopeful it will be over turned at appeal but the upshot now is you can't just move someone any more without a good deal of faffing about.

Why has this person gone home sick? Is it disability related?

Haripo Mon 30-Oct-17 16:06:02

No disabilities - said the office was a breeding ground for germs and she was having trouble breathing as has a cold - why I sat her next to a window originally so I did take her concerns into consideration when making the change.

gunsandbanjos Mon 30-Oct-17 16:06:47

They over reacted and sound like a bloody nightmare!

iklboo Mon 30-Oct-17 16:07:01

I came back to work after 6 weeks sick leave and the team had moved to an entire new section. Nobody told me - and I'd had once a week catch up phone calls with my boss. They even forgot to bring my kit round.

CandyMelts Mon 30-Oct-17 16:08:45

God what snowflakes, I'd be so exasperated

elelfrance Mon 30-Oct-17 16:09:24

I just planned desk moves for a group 40 people, and I had to take a stance that no negotiations would be entered into whatsoever, otherwise it would've taken the UN to sort out everyone preferences. I took into account any known medical needs, then after that, business needs (like the typists needing quiet scenario), and refused to enter into any discussions after that.
MovingOnUp, I must read up on that case, that's an insane outcome !

W0rriedMum Mon 30-Oct-17 16:10:49

In the way we look at individual cubicles as an old fashioned concept, we will soon consider assigned desks as odd. The trend is moving to hot desks very quickly.

I suspect these two staff members had a good setup e.g. no-one overlooking their screens. They may have been on mumsnet all day!

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Mon 30-Oct-17 16:11:04

Crap like this is why I don't work in house any more grin

Tell her to raise a grievance if she's unhappy or get on with it if you're sure no mental health issues.

Are you her line manager?

Anywhere I have worked failure to follow a reasonable request is gross misconduct. You might want to bear that in mind.

The woman I mentioned earlier worked in the civil service was an alcoholic with mental health issues including (iirc) OCD.

disahsterdahling Mon 30-Oct-17 16:12:43

They should feel lucky that they have allocated desks and don't have the stress of hot desking.

I really dislike going into my office as I can rarely leave really early to get in before most people do, and that means all the desks have gone. It's really stressful.

In my previous job we had a desk reshuffle and we just got told where we were going to sit.

QuitMoaning Mon 30-Oct-17 16:13:08

My first thought was that the main reason for not liking moving from the corner to the middle is not wanting people to be behind them and therefore see their screens. Have they something to hide? Internet surfing or private stuff?

Since my company moved to current building 5 years ago, I have had 6 different desks. I just get on with it.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Mon 30-Oct-17 16:14:00

Cut and pasted off the CIPD website because I think you have to be a member to read People Management magazine (and it was HMRC rather than civil service):

Admin officer fired over desk move disagreement wins £75,000

Judge finds employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for depression

A woman who was sacked after a disagreement over a desk move led to extensive time off with mental ill-health has been awarded £75,000 by a tribunal.

Leeds Employment Tribunal heard that L Bannister had been employed by The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) since April 1990 as an administrative officer. She initially worked in counter avoidance but, around December 2013, her team was disbanded and she was told she would have to move floors.

Shortly after this, Bannister phoned one of the managers to tell them she was unable to cope with her life and, a few days later, called back to explain she was an alcoholic and her mental health condition was preventing her from moving desks.

Bannister eventually agreed to return to work following a conversation with another manager and, although she apologised for allowing the desk move to become a “big thing”, she explained it was because she felt settled in her original location.

Then, in a letter dated early 2014, an occupational health adviser noted that Bannister had said she had been suffering with depression for three years and that she was vulnerable to future episodes of mental ill-health, but determined she was fit to work.

However, Bannister went on to have problems with attendance. She was issued her first written warning on the matter in April 2014 and continued to have several periods of absence until March 2015, when she was signed off work by her GP for alcohol dependence, anxiety and depression. She continued to be signed off under a string of notes for similar issues until she was dismissed in January 2016.

In April 2015, it was decided that Bannister would move teams again. Bannister protested, but was ultimately told it was not possible to reverse the decision about the move. At one point, a team leader told her that “in fairness, he was not aware of issues around previous moves and, to be honest, he had no interest”.

Bannister kept in touch with her employer about her return to work throughout the time she was signed off, but the tribunal heard that the conversations about the desk move quickly became strained.

After carrying out a report into Bannister’s sickness absence in August 2015, HMRC concluded that she should be dismissed. It was also decided, in October 2015, that Bannister should not receive any compensation under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. Although Bannister appealed both the decision to dismiss her and the decision not to award compensation, she was told in January 2016 that both appeals had been unsuccessful.

Allowing the claim for disability discrimination, Judge Keevash decided that HMRC had failed to make reasonable adjustments – such as allowing Bannister to work at her old desk for a short period of time while she prepared herself to move – to help her return to work.

In particular, the tribunal found that Bannister had given several examples of evidence that suggested she “needed the security of an established routine at the workplace and that any change posed a threat that unsettled her”. For example, Bannister explained how she would not board a bus if she felt there were too many people already on it and would avoid joining a supermarket checkout queue if there were already three people in it.

HMRC has been ordered to pay Bannister £75,294.89, including £38,000 for pension losses, £17,152.22 for lost earnings and £15,000 for injury to feelings.

People Management has contacted HMRC for comment but had not received a reply at the time of writing. Bannister could not be reached for comment.

Haripo Mon 30-Oct-17 16:16:27

Thanks everybody.
I work in the public sector so some of our practices are a little outdated, but I have to work with what we've ben given.

Yes I am the line manager for the post and yes I think that was half of the beauty, they had nobody overlooking their screens.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Mon 30-Oct-17 16:17:45

Get them some screen protector thingies then so it's private and have a read of your disciplinary process.

No way would I tolerate people not turning up to my meetings or refusing to follow reasonable requests.

Bringmewineandcake Mon 30-Oct-17 16:19:00

They’d be on the first stage of the disciplinary procedure if they worked at my office and acted like this.
I agree with a PP, clearly they liked their cushty position and are pissed off with your changes. Tough. You need to assert your position as their manager here, otherwise they will continue to undermine you which won’t do you any favours in the long run.

youarenotkiddingme Mon 30-Oct-17 16:19:13

Well they clearly just want to moan then don't they if they won't attend any meetings?

As long as you have an email trail of what you did and why I can't see it lasting forever. Hopefully if you ignore the tantrum it'll stop wink

elelfrance Mon 30-Oct-17 16:21:03

The mind boggles .... sometimes whole teams move, and you can't leave one person in the middle of a different team!

Now mind you, I would tread very carefully with an employee with those type of known challenges .... its a minefield

SandSnakeofDorne Mon 30-Oct-17 16:23:52

It will be more than half the reason. I bet they get more work done sitting in the middle.

Eliza9917 Mon 30-Oct-17 16:43:56

I'm with the staff members. I fucking hate seating plans. I always got put directly in the line of air con hmm. Nothing of value to add, just that I detest micro management.

ittakes2 Mon 30-Oct-17 16:46:33

if you are their manager, I'm not getting why they feel comfortable talking to you in this way. I'm wondering if you are too accommodating with them (i.e. you are being too nice) and unfortunately maybe they are not respecting your authority enough.

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