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Should I make sure someone sits in on any future meetings with my team member?

(36 Posts)
TheYearOfTheCat Sun 05-Jul-09 20:08:45

I had a meeting with a team member on Friday, who has not been performing since she joined the team. I had raised issues with her previously, and this was a meeting to follow up the various issues which had been discussed.

The meeting did not go well.

Basically the individual (a lady who is a bit older than me), refuses to accept that she is under-performing, and when I provided her with examples, she reacted aggressively and sarcastically. Throughout the meeting, she would try to put words in my mouth, for example - I discussed occasions when she has not appeared for work - and she would say - 'So you're saying I can't take leave!', so I would have to clarify & say, 'No, I am referring to the occasions when you have not come into work, without leave being granted' etc.

I found her behaviour during the meeting unacceptable and unprofessional - she would interrupt me mid-sentence and start laughing and in a sarcastic tone jeer, 'oh I have heard it all now!'

Throughout the meeting she was taking down selective notes - I can't explain it very well, but it was like it was being done in an intimidating way - each time I said anything, which she would then try to twist, she would break off, and make a point of scribbling down notes - which would take up to a minute each time. I actually said to her, 'would you mind not doing that - I find it very distracting, and it gives me the impression that you are more concerned about building some sort of dossier rather than listening to what I have to say.' I said she was welcome to make a record of the meeting afterwards, or if she wanted, I would get someone in to take notes - but she said 'No, and I'll take notes if I want.' I asked would she be sharing a copy of the notes and she replied 'certainly not!'.

I'm not quite sure how I managed it, but I kept my cool throughout the meeting, and emphasised that my goal was for everyone in the team to be performing and working well with each other, and outlined what I needed her to do.

However, I am not prepared to tolerate that sort of conduct in the future. Would it be unfair to the staff member for me to bring someone else to sit in on the meetings and take notes?

I have previously asked my HR about whether they would attend meetings, however they say they would not attend unless it is a formal procedure, and that by having someone else sit in, the staff member could claim it was unfair & overbearing, and she would be entitled to bring a friend. I work in a large public sector organisation.

At this stage, it is not a formal procedure, and as far as I am concerned, as a manager I am trying to address performance issues. However, it seems a bit hmm that I feel I need to have someone present with me when I next speak to this individual.

Any advice would be gratefully received.

rubyslippers Sun 05-Jul-09 20:12:58

i think it could become a formal procedure

surely taking unauthorised leave is a disciplinary matter?

i would place this meeting on record in some way and would speak to HR accordingly

OR you get someone in and she does - she sounds very unco-operative ...

i can't

janeite Sun 05-Jul-09 20:18:58

I agree. I think you should write a brief report for your line-manager, saying why you felt that the meeting was not productive. And then request another meeting with her, with somebody else in to oversee/record.

flowerybeanbag Sun 05-Jul-09 20:24:35

Have you written up notes of the meeting? If this might become a formal procedure having a written record of previous more informal attempts to raise performance concerns and your team member's response to your concerns is crucial. You need to be doing that even if it isn't a formal procedure yet.

How long has it been that she's not been performing? Is it perhaps time to start a formal performance management procedure?

fishie Sun 05-Jul-09 20:24:56

talk to hr about performance review procedures. sounds vile, no wonder you are thinking about it on a sunday night sad

sweetfall Sun 05-Jul-09 20:30:06

You need to memo the meeting. You need to specify what was said and exactly what action points you expect from it. You need to do so without emotion and then you should lodge the meeting memo with HR as well as providing her with a copy

sazlocks Sun 05-Jul-09 20:37:00

Sounds horrible but you sound like you handled it well. I think HR need to provide you with a bit more support TBH. I think you need to discuss it with your manager and get some support. Surely taking unauthorised leave is a disciplinary issue and needes to be addressed through the disciplinary policies.
I had a staff member similar to this once although she was a bit more passively aggressive than yours sounds. It really undermined my confidence in my abilities as a manager at first.
After taking advice, I dealt with her by minuting every meeting and sending her a copy of the notes and religiously picking her up on every minuted action. It took a while but once she realised that it was all written down and I was consistent in my attitude then she did buck her ideas up.

OnceWasSquiffy Sun 05-Jul-09 22:02:17

TBH I don't see this resolving itself, only getting worse. I would say bring HR in and formalise it sooner rather than later.

I would ask HR to come along for at least the follow-up meeting, not because you need to have someone present, but because you suspect that this member of staff is likely to escalate the issues by her behaviour and you would welcome HR's viewpoint on this. Far better that way than have it blow up in your face and then having to explain to HR why you didn't involve them earlier.

TheYearOfTheCat Sun 05-Jul-09 22:47:33

Thanks.

I suspect she is trying to deflect attention from her lack of performance, and trying to make a case of bullying against her. She had already spoken to my line manager and said she is unhappy working with me and asked for a move. (I only discovered this during the meeting!). She told me she no longer wanted to work in my unit, and I said if she was seriously unhappy, I would support her move. I spoke to my boss on Friday afternoon following the meeting, and he just said that we (ie me & team member) need to sort it out and suggested we clear the air by going for a coffee outside of work and 'having a yarn' hmm. Personally, I don't think it is remotely appropriate to be discussing her performance outside of the work environment. He is completely overlooking the serious performance issues, and seems to think it is just the 2 of us ladies not getting on. hmm

One of the main issues I have with her, (apart from not doing the work that I ask her to do) is that she accepts no personal responsibility - no matter what she is asked to do, there will always be at least 3 reasons why she has not done it, and it is always everyone else's fault! Her role profile specifies behavioural competencies which clearly sets out levels of personal responsibility as being crucial to the role.

I raised this with her, and provided examples. She said the reason she was under-performing (despite claiming earlier that she wasn't under-performing) was that I had undermined her confidence. hmm There wasn't a single sense of irony. hmm

Flowery - I have documented the meeting verbatim, and will try to summarise the key points which I will share with my manager & the team member - not sure how I should address / record the aggressive sarcastic behaviour / arsey note-taking aspects of the meeting though.

Her formal performance appraisal is overdue, and I probably need to have a meeting with her later this week to discuss it.

She joined the team last summer. I (and my colleague) have spent a substantial amount of time training and supporting her, but she is just not capable of doing the role. Until March, I had been adopting a supportive and encouraging approach, and first raised it directly as a performance issue with her in March. Now she is claiming that I am being overly critical of her.

Having spoken with her previous manager informally, it appears she has been mismanaged for years. She is also now claiming that a DDA condition means she is unable to retain information.

sazlocks Mon 06-Jul-09 07:56:22

I am not sure how you can record the wider aspects of her behaviour as I think these are pretty subjective. Your manager sounds clueless not very helpful !
If she plans to take it further then things like her overdue performance appraisal can be used against her managers as an example of lack of support - but I guess you know this already. I once worked with a guy who was close to committing fraud in his role but he got away with it because there was no documentation proving that he had formal performance reviews in the previous 2 years.
I have worked in the public sector for 16 years and see this sort of thing constantly. People who are dead wood moved around the system and not managed appropriatly. When they come across someone who is prepared to do their job properly and manage them then all hell breaks loose.
I think you need HR to help you with this one. It sounds like you need to take her down a formal competance/performance route - taking into account her DDA issue.
Good luck

flowerybeanbag Mon 06-Jul-09 14:12:13

She sounds like a nightmare and you sound as though you've handled it perfectly well so far.

I agree with sazlock about people moving round the system in the public sector and not being managed properly when underperforming. I've never worked in the public sector myself but know plenty of people who have/do.

Just because no one else has managed to deal with her properly and just because she is reacting badly to you doing so and just because your manager is being rubbish, you absolutely mustn't give up. I'm sure you won't, but you know what I mean.

If her appraisal is overdue you need to have that as soon as possible, getting all the performance issues (and attitude issues) documented with examples and her response to them where appropriate.

I also think if she is saying there is a DDA issue affecting her performance you need to get a referral to OH as soon as possible to get you a full report on the extent of the issue, the extent to which it is/will reasonably affect her work, and what adjustments you need to reasonably make.

I then think you need to consider moving down the formal performance management route using whatever procedure you have in place for that. If you've given her lots of support and training since last summer, and raised performance issues 4 months ago which have not improved, trying to deal with your concerns more formally now sounds perfectly reasonable, particularly given her uncooperative attitude towards previous less formal attempts to improve things.

I would suggest you book a meeting with your own line manager, set out your proposal for addressing the situation and ask for his/her support.

SolidGoldBrass Mon 06-Jul-09 14:16:14

What an absolute twat this woman sounds. Basically, follow all the correct procedures with a view to sacking her as soon as possible. Lazy, self-rightous, skiving whiners like her do not improve ever and you will make yourself and the rest of your team wretched if you have to keep her.

rookiemater Mon 06-Jul-09 14:44:46

I have documented 121s with each member of staff once a month. Depending on the person they either come in with their own notes of what they want to discuss and I then add comments so we can each keep a record ,or for the less organised, I document it all and send a copy and ask them to add comments or confirm it is ok.

It's not a perfect system as my not so good performer never bothers responding, but I have a record of a) having sent the notes and b) a chaser asking to confirm if he/she is in agreement with them.

This way it means when we come to appraisal time performance is clearly documented along with any concerns or issues and an action plan from both of us on how to address them.

Keep going with what you are doing, as long as you are raising the issues and outlining what you believe to be a reasonable course of action you are carrying out your management responsibilities.

Your line manager is being unhelpful and trying to shirk their own position, they are the more senior member or staff so it is beholden on them to provide you with support and guidance on how to make the team the most productive it can be. Agree with flowery keep persisting to get that support, also our HR although they won't come to meetings unless formal are quite good at giving advice over the phone on how to handle difficult conversations, so may be able to assist you in that way.

TheYearOfTheCat Wed 08-Jul-09 01:39:27

Thanks all. I have sent a formal report to my line manager outlining the background and issues. I don't know if I am happy or hacked off that he felt the need to verify the position with my (slightly) junior male colleague that there were, in fact, performance issues, even though I have been keeping my manager updated throughout. Thankfully my colleague confirmed the position.

Not that it makes any difference to the level of support I will get. I work in a pretty sexist organisation. angry

I have spent this evening writing up the notes to send to the member of staff. In terms of the note-taking / attitude issues, I have said under the heading 'Recording of Minutes' - 'I found the fact that you regularly interrupted our discussion to record selected notes distracting and an obstacle to clear communication. In light of this, and the recommendations in relation to reasonable adjustments for your condition, I intend to arrange for someone to record minutes in any future meetings we have.'

Does this sound too confrontational?

angry This parlarva is sooo draining on my time - I have a thousand other things to do.

flowerybeanbag Wed 08-Jul-09 09:07:02

That does sound a little bit confrontational yes. You need to appear to be ultra calm and reasonable, apart from anything else to highlight her confrontational behaviour.

Something like:

'I think the fact that you regularly interrupted our discussion to record selected notes may have been an obstacle to clear communication. Obviously there is no problem with you noting down elements of our conversation to ensure you remember key points being raised. However I am keen to ensure that conversation flows in future meetings giving you every opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have, particularly given the recommendations in relation to reasonable adjustments for your condition. I am therefore proposing to arrange for someone to record minutes in any future meetings we have. You will be able to review these notes following any future meetings to ensure you are happy that they are an accurate reflection of the discussion that has taken place and suggest amendments where appropriate.'

slug Wed 08-Jul-09 09:32:46

Is it worth breaching the subject of recording the meetings? I have weekly 121s with my boss and started recording them when I broke my right arm and couldn't take notes. I've carried on doing so after my arm came out of a cast. It's not that I don't trust his memory or mine and I have an excellent working relationship with him, it's just that sometimes decisions get mixed up in general converstaion or we veer off topic and it's useful to refer back to what we actually said. I also suffer from migraines and one of the symptoms of an impending attack is wooly thinking and difficulty retaining information.

TheYearOfTheCat Thu 09-Jul-09 22:19:41

Flowery - thank you, as always smile. I amended that paragraph, and in light of your comments, reviewed the rest of my minutes, inserting lots of offers of help and support. I also put in writing that unless there was an improvement that I will commence the formal procedure.

I was working this afternoon, and the team member seemed to be ok.

I need to discuss the next steps with my boss, but I think my plan of action will be to call a DDA case conference to involve my manager, HR and Occupational Health to establish exactly what adjustments are reasonable in light of the claims made at the meeting. I have said to the staff member that I think weekly meetings with her would be beneficial, although tbh, she is so aggressive towards me I dread them. I am so glad that someone will be there to take notes - perhaps it will moderate her behaviour.

flowerybeanbag Fri 10-Jul-09 08:48:51

No problem. I think your plan sounds perfect - you are giving her every opportunity to ask for support if that is what is needed to improve her performance, which will be crucial if you take formal action later -she won't be able to appeal any action citing lack of support if you've done that.

You are also showing you are taking her DDA concerns with the utmost seriousness. I also agree that having a third party there is likely to moderate her behaviour a bit, making it less of an ordeal for you hopefully!

You are doing everything right, hope it brings the results you need quickly!

TheYearOfTheCat Fri 10-Jul-09 16:03:18

Quickly

Public Sector

Not likely

grin

flowerybeanbag Fri 10-Jul-09 16:18:13

grin

It's all relative I guess!

OnceWasSquiffy Fri 10-Jul-09 19:21:47

<hijack alert> Flowery, can you pop over here. Thanks

KerryMumbles Fri 10-Jul-09 19:25:27

i don't think you can tell her whether or not she can take notes hmm

she's obviously antagonistic. It seems like there may be more to this than you're saying. I mean is she a sociopath? Or perhaps there is a history of conflict between the two of you and she may have issues with you as well?

LoveBeingAMummy Fri 10-Jul-09 21:55:34

Glad you've got your plan sorted, Flowery is a diamond!

Thought you would appricate my experiences, whilst not in public sector, they are very similar. I worked in a sales environment where some line managers would ignore any issues as long as the MOS was selling, or were too friendly and so did not address issues, underperformace was never followed through and team changes were commonplace meaning that if they were being sorted it would be stopped and sometimes never continued.

Her behavour is down to never having anyone follow this through before. She may well believe that none of this is her fault. Has she expressed that she can do her role and that she wants too? Getting her buy in would certainly make the situation easier, have you asked her how she feels about her performance and if it is where she wants it to be? Sometimes by getting the MOS to tell you how they are doing, where they are not quite hitting, you can address it all as helping them. Whereas at the moment she is seeing a battle maybe she can see you as being on her side. (I do not mean that you need to be soft on her )

Preparing before the meetings you ahve with her will boost your confidence i answering her excuses. NOw you have an idea of the sorts of things she will use you can answer the questions you want to ask and come up with your responses.

I'm sure you ahve already done this however making sure she has her objectives clearly documented as well as the support you are going to give will help. Its important that every timescale is met by you otherwise yuo will lose credibility.

Good luck, its hard but not impossible to turn her around.

TheYearOfTheCat Fri 10-Jul-09 23:22:33

Kerry - it wasn't note-taking in general - it was the way it was being done - almost in an intimidating type of way, and very selective. It is really hard to put into words, but she only wrote long and protracted notes when she had tried to put words into my mouth. It was quite melodramatic, and at a few points she actually exclaimed 'hah!!' before she furiously started scribbling for minutes at a time, forcing the meeting to stop whilst this occurred. hmm

There is no history at all between us. In fact before she moved to the unit I had always got on very well with her, on a casual colleague basis IYKWIM.

Basically I think she has got away with not actually doing any work for years by being really prickly and aggressive to attempts to manage her. I don't know what the proper term for her behaviour is, but an example is that she phoned me at home one day when I was on annual leave with a completely trivial matter (ie which people were able to attend a routine meeting 3 weeks later), which my colleague (who was in work) could have dealt with. When I told her I was on leave (which she knew) and that my colleague could deal with the matter, she said 'So you're telling me you're not interested then?' - The answer was yes, this is not important enough to be phoning me at home on annual leave, speak to my colleague. - Does this make sense?

Personal responsibility is a huge issue, and as far as I can see, she resorts to whatever excuse comes to mind at the time, and if that is challenged as being incorrect, she moves down the list. It is so pervasive, she quite literally provides an excuse for every single situation, no matter how serious or trivial the issue.

I really don't know if she genuinely believes she does a great job. There are so many inconsistencies - for example, initially she maintains her performance is fine - yet once I provide documented examples, it changes to 'the reason I am under-performing is;
I haven't been trained
I work part-time
No-one has shown me what to do
I haven't been in the role long enough
No-one told me exactly what to do
My condition means I don't retain information
and the latest is -
You have undermined my confidence by being overly critical hmm - so it's my fault she underperforms!?

In the same breath as saying that she is underperforming as a result of me being too critical, she also said 'well if you have a problem with my performance you should have said something before.' shock hmm

Sorry, this is long winded - Friday night! blush

JoesMummy09 Fri 10-Jul-09 23:34:14

I had one like this. Had grievances, disciplinaries the lot.

She'd never been managed before either.

Got it sorted though and everyone felt much better.

Good luck, you're doing a good job smile

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