Helen Giles, Managing Director
Their greatest hope is that some unexpected event will occur to remove the problem without them ever having to tackle that scary person head on. On the odd occasion, their faith in such a divine intervention is justified. Often the intervening event is the manager themselves moving off to another job leaving the mess behind them for some poor new manager on the block to pick up.
This human reluctance to put your head in to the lion’s cage of dealing with somebody who has learned all the arts of getting people to back off is totally understandable. A not insignificant part of our role as HR professionals is to persuade and support managers to have that courageous conversation in which it’s finally laid on the line that we don’t like what that particular employee is doing. Often by the time it is picked up, the charge sheet of their misdeeds runs to the length of a supermodel’s leg.
Knowing as we do that if left, nine times out of ten things only get worse, it’s somewhat surprising that HR professionals sometimes collude with avoidance by agreeing to put action to tackle bad behaviour on hold in the face of some hoped for supervening event. The most common one is “We won’t bother to initiate the disciplinary investigation into the complaints about Ken’s bullying as there’s going to be some restructuring in that department and he’ll probably be made redundant”.
Our experience at Real People tells us that in all except the most exceptional circumstances, it is always best to initiate a course of action at the time when it is identified that that course of action is appropriate, running it in parallel with other events that might emerge. For example, even if someone is going to find themselves in a redundancy pool in two months’ time, the fact that you have initiated informal or formal action on account of their behaviour will put you on much stronger ground for selecting them rather than someone else for redundancy if that situation does arise without allegations of discrimination being heaped on your heads. And if, as not infrequently happens, something happens to delay the restructuring, you have gone a way down the path to nailing the unacceptable behaviour so that Ken doesn’t end up for another prolonged period getting away with behaviour that is troubling his colleagues every single day of their working lives.
People who work alongside the likes of Ken but have no power to invoke action themselves will be eternally grateful to any manager and any HR department who follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice on non-procrastination when it comes to tackling employee relations issues.