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Compassion and Professionalism at Work

I say to my associates and partners, and mean it, they can contact me at any time but during an evening I may have taken wine, so you may need to confirm anything agreed by email. Therefore, it was unusual for someone with whom I am acquainted to message me unexpectedly through LinkedIn on a Friday at 9 pm. This is a woman, Alexandra, I have met once but without any real view of a follow up.

Initial pleasantries quickly led to, ‘I was alright until I was let go on Wednesday’. The actual agenda was clear. The good news was I hadn’t had any wine, yet. We moved to a long telephone conversation which showed, at face value, appalling treatment by her employer.

Over that weekend, I drafted a note for her to send to the owner, which I think explains the situation and the mistakes. It is shown below;

Following our brief meeting on Wednesday, I wish to formally submit a grievance.

The issues include:

  • At the meeting it was said I was being ‘let go’.
  • There was no letter of invitation to the meeting
  • I was not informed prior to the meeting of the reason for it.
  • I have not been the subject of any previous formal disciplinary process
  • Performance is not Gross Misconduct and cannot lead to Summary Dismissal
  • I was not given the option to be accompanied by a representative or colleague
  • I was not given a right to appeal against the decision
  • I have not received a letter confirming my dismissal and the reasons for it
  • You have issued an internal communication telling my colleagues that I have been ‘terminated’. This is a breach of your corporate responsibility to maintain confidentiality and, given the errors highlighted above, is Defamation of Character.
  • My Contract of Employment gives me one month’s notice of termination. This means I must be paid and accepted as an employee until xxx. This does mean I will have completed two years’ service with the company.
  • By terminating my employment on xxx, you have, to use very significant legal terminology, ‘Withheld my wages’.
  • You may believe that by terminating my employment before my second anniversary date that I have no rights in Employment Law;
  • My employment goes beyond my anniversary date
  • The significant errors shown above mean there has been both Unfair Dismissal and Wrongful Dismissal. The later would apply irrespective of length of service.

I took on the extra role only two months ago and had one days’ training. I wasn’t given the job description more than a month later, and you dismissed me eight days after that. I have never had a formal appraisal.

It is very obvious that the meeting had a prejudged outcome. This takes us to the issue of Prejudice. You have deliberately forced a situation in which I have been wholly undertrained to be the Sales Ledger Clerk. I have been highly flexible in taking on extra responsibilities as well as the role of Purchase Ledger Clerk, in which I am thoroughly competent. I am now aware that the new person is being paid £5000 pa more than I am. In retrospect, it is now clear why the woman, who it transpires is my replacement, was asking questions about my job. She was also aware of your decision to dismiss me. Again, a gross breach of confidentiality. You have created a concerted effort to create the excuse to terminate my employment.

This accelerated and legally uncompliant dismissal is wrong. Please do not think the offer of part-time receptionist was an adequate alternative role. In fact, it confirms your careless and inappropriate management of the situation.

After a little tweaking I left it with Alexandra to submit. There was no need for her to let me know what she did, so I have no certainty, but she was seriously considering forgetting the problem and ‘just getting on with life’. This is, of course, exactly the reaction the ‘manager’ wanted. If unchallenged he has succeeded and will, in all probability, repeat it in the future. Are there broader impacts? Yes, he has dealt with one issue, but has he created others?

  • How does this make the other members of staff feel?
  • Will there be a high staff turnover rate?
  • Will it improve morale and productivity?
  • Will the next person use their employment law rights?
  • How much is being spent on recruitment, induction and training?

On this occasion I advised the individual, however, more often I am asked to assist an organisation. Good management in this type of situation isn’t difficult, even if the conversation can be stressful and embarrassing;

  • Have a Disciplinary Procedure
  • Ensure staff understand the performance levels required and the standards of behaviour needed
  • Use the process, and especially to correct underperformance and prevent dismissals
  • Use the procedure rigorously and, preferably, take advice from someone who will tell you the truth

The two words to follow are professional and compassionate. It takes a lot more time to prepare for an Employment Court case than to behave appropriately in the first instance. The financial costs of losing a case can be painful, but the reputational costs can be much greater.

I don’t know if this manager sought advice from a Human Resources adviser or what any advice was. In previous cases, I have been astonished at the interpretation management have followed and, if it was the advice given, how some HR advisors function. A little knowledge can be dangerous and to quote Red Adair who extinguished fires on oil rigs, ‘If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur’.

Naturally, the name has been changed and all references which might have pointed to a particular employer have been removed. This is a graphic example of poor management and the low regard in which employees are held. Justice at work is based on equity, fairness, and transparency; these are not standards which are imposed to annoy and frustrate management, and if applied consistently will improve productivity, staff retention, and organisation success.

Rob has extensive experience in leading change in organizations of all sizes. People are at the core of all improvements, and, as a career strategist, Rob’s belief is that a motivated workforce is the single most impactful aspect.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash
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