Friday, 27 January 2012


I was writing a bullying and harassment policy and to update myself on the topic, did some research on the subject.  It's always useful to revisit the theories about bullying in a more in depth way.  By way of a refresher , here are some things for you to think about:
When a complaint is investigated and the finding is that communications should have been better, don't conclude that this is just down to poor management.  Withholding information is a form of bullying.  Poor management is a form of bullying. Don't protect the bully, even if the person is a senior manager.  A poor performer should be able to be told about his/her poor performance without feeling bullied.  So make the link between your performance management practices and anti-bullying training. Appreciate also that bullying is caused by the perpetrator's own feelings of inadequacy.  So put in the support mechanism, not just for the person claiming to be bullied , but also for the person accused of bullying.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Martyrs and resilience

Happy 2012!

I begin the year with a bit of blubbing as I face the long January following Christmas excesses.  How, I think to myself, have I let that happen? - when I know with a bit of better planning, I should be able to cope with and swallow those excesses.  A colleague said to me you can only plan for what comes next, but not worry about it.  In the meantime, don't martyr yourself (in the context of I am not the only one to indulge in Christmas excesses!).  Again, a real-life situation that suddenly transmuted into a work place scenario.  There are bosses who worry about how their employee will re-act; they martyr themselves, thinking what am I doing wrong? The employee is unhappy and not performing/ behaving badly, and that's my fault.  I am a bad manager. So - allow yourself the 5 minutes of worry and self-blame, then get a grip.  Everyone is responsible for his/her own actions.  An employee misbehaving or underperforming is doing that all by themselves - fact.  Now they may need support - in a manager communicating expectations of standards - of performance or behaviour, and you might need to to do it in a formal process.  The only fault a manager can own is in not communicating , and then not thinking, is there a different way to communicate this, because my first attempt didn't work.  That's as far as it goes- ownership of responses by the employee and their subsequent behaviours is down to that individual.  So to both employers and employees, own your actions and re-actions - don't martyr yourself thinking it's all my fault.  It takes 2 to tango.
Oh- and the resilience bit- that's to do with age and experience.  There are levels of resilience I think that grows with age and experience, but sometimes, you do need a time out as resilience levels just hit an all-time low.  So - give yourself a time-out- don't martyr yourself thinking you've got to be always coping. Have a blub!

Saturday, 2 July 2011


Employers often think it's difficult to get rid of an employee.  Recent observations make me think the employer looks at these choices: 
  • can I cope without this employee
  • do I want to be nice
  • do I like the employee as a person
  • how much more trouble/ hassle will the employee cause if he/ she stays
  • have I got the time to go through such a laborious process
  • how much will it cost
Just as you should invest time, effort and finances in recruiting the right person, so should you take the same efforts to terminate someone's employment.  And if you want to be perceived as being nice, and you like the person who's been working for you, then give them the respect and dignity to plan in good time and to communicate well the reason for the departure.  That must be sound business surely. And because it becomes purely a business decision that has to drive the decision, a clearly reasoned explanation backed up with facts will stand the 'fair and reasonable test'.  Sometimes, it is not a decision you have to make in isolation - involve the supervisor/ middle manager/ other stakeholder.  Involve me- or an objective A N Other.  And for goodness' sake, let's not forget the employee - the win, win situation is when the employee agrees it's time to part company.  As with all life, planning is key, communication is key; then it doesn't have to be all that difficult to get rid.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Clarity in Communication

This week there have been lots of lessons learnt by me about clarity in communication.  Normally it is relatively easy for me to be clear on paper.  I draft letters and documents and read them and re-read them.  I try to keep my sentences short, and check for ambiguity or a different interpretation that could be put across.  I think this habit has influenced my thought process in verbal communications - because I know it is so easy to say something that could be misinterpreted, I end up not saying much at all!  My valuable lesson this week, is that appearing to be listening  (and processing) what is being said, and then not saying much in response can indicate or give the appearance of agreement.  Or, something that frustrates my husband even more, that I don't give a hoot about what he's just said to me.  I have actually internalised and in my mind I have answered.  Verbalising the answer doesn't immediately come.  The danger in this is that because there is no immediate response, the other person will have made an assumption - their interpretation is more than likely to be what they think they want to hear.  When there is no disagreement, is the only other option agreement?  This must be how 'about faces' happen-  when there is that difference between the thoughts finally verbalised, and the misinterpretation that has already taken place.   Can you hear my husband's plaintive cry -" I thought you weren't bothered... that's why I said we would go round to Auntie Maude's!" whereas in my mind I had been thinking - 'no I don't mind going as long as I've got the washing done first and I don't have to play charades'.
It is strange I think, that I have never before equated the written need to be specific,  eg: as in I would 'categorically deny.. eg.. that there has been discrimination' and the lawyerly distinction between 'deny'  and 'make no admission'  to a similar requirement in verbal communications.  I should be able to verbally say whether I disagree ( ie deny) or I neither agree nor disagree ( ie, make no admission).  The trick I have learnt, for those of you who reflect and internalise like I do, is to buy yourself more time- questions like "that's interesting -how have you come to that conclusion?" , not only gets you more information but buys you the time to think about your verbal response.  I still think it is frightening though- because words said can never be unsaid!  It is important though to realise that words unsaid can still communicate- but not as clear a message as words that are said. So bosses, can you spot the ones that internalise and who are communicating with you by not saying much? 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Work ethics

Having a lovely quiet moment of reflection, after a night out at a 40th (no haven't got the shades on and I'm not dehydrated!).  I spoke to one of my best buddies at the party last night and we both agreed that we had a lot to be grateful for in our lives.  As usual I can never really separate life from work and it led me to think about being grateful for the people I work with.  I have listened to  a manager agonise whether he could really devote sufficient time to a work placement student to give the student a true learning experience.  My chap didn't want to just stick the student in a corner and give him lots of photocopying.  I also listened to a Director taking up the cudgels for a temp he just took on, who in his view hadn't been treated right.  Then there was the manager who took ownership for not dealing with a minor infringement at the right time- the moment had passed, and it would be OTT to invoke a full on disciplinary procedure.  Then there was the employee who agreed to work beyond his notice period in order not to leave his employer in the lurch.  The employer can now plan a timely handover.  Isn't it grand that people have such values, such a sense of what's right and wrong?  Isn't it a privilege to come across such people and to work with them?

Friday, 25 February 2011


One of the deadly sins isn't it? ( Envy is if you want to be absolutely correct).  Can team members fall prey to this sin and is it the manager's burden to sort out?  In these days of equality and diversity, how do managers allocate different tasks to different team members without awakening the green monster?  When you have say, two members with the same job title, and the same job description, but one employee will get the 'juicier' client or project, and one of them is female and the other male; or one of them is white and the other ethnic; just how do you prevent the team member who 'lost out' on the juicier bit of work from getting jealous? Have the HR bells been clanging by now?  Yet, the problem is so much more intrinsic isn't it?  I have this constantly at home with my three kids.  My intial bout of generosity with one child usually ends up costing me more ( "well, TJ got £2.00 so why can't I have £2.00 too?!  If TJ and Analisa gets £2.00 you've got to give me some too!!) - and yet I say, I love them all equally, so what made me even think I could get away with just giving one child a bit of money without having to make up for the others? Well, sometimes it's because I was presented with justification or I created the justification ( TJ helped me unload the dishwasher), sometimes it's a case of who shouts loudest (please please pleeaasssse), and sometimes it is downright discrimination - he's the youngest ( please be kind and don't ever let on!). But it doesn't make me love the other 2 less.  And this is what I get from managers-  " I get on with all my staff and treat them the same...but..."  - so have a good think about what protected characterisic ( yes that's right, let's get used to this Equality Act terminology!) is underlying that decision to give someone a juicier job!

Monday, 7 February 2011


In my last blog, I asked for help to get me into the discipline of writing my own blogs regularly.  Now, about a week after, I'm frantically trying to recall a superb topic that I was going to blog about, since then - but it's gone. The discipline wasn't there to blog about it immediately!!  It occurs to me, if bosses and employees got into the habit and discipline of saying the things that are uppermost in the mind at the time - be it praise or a slight grumble, things wouldn't get forgotten or blown out of proportion so much , wouldn't it?  Storing it up is just no good: one, you forget what you originally were going to say or what you actually felt at the time; two, it becomes old hat and irrelevant, and the context is gone(think about the times people say, "well... it was funny at the time") ; and three, you turn into a procastinator.  The sin that loves me most- it doesn't know the meaning of unrequited love!