Supporting Your Business Success
through HR Excellence

Employee Issues
Employee Issues

Dealing with Problems in the Workplace

Dealing with Problems in the Workplace

Managing employee issues in the workplace can be one of the most difficult areas for businesses.  No matter how hard business owners and managers try you can never please all of the people all of the time.

We’re going to be running a series of blog posts over the coming weeks on dealing with employee issues.  In this week’s post we’re going to look at the basics.

It’s Monday morning and your employees have had lots of thinking time over the weekend.  They’ve decided that this problem they’ve been thinking about for weeks needs to be addressed.  They’ve spent time over the weekend planning exactly what they are going to say and arrive at your desk on a mission.  You haven’t had the same opportunity!  You’re faced with an employee who wants you to solve the problem right now.  What steps should you take when dealing with problems in the workplace?

The basics in dealing with employee issues

Whilst we want to avoid stating the obvious we thought it would be useful to just set out some basic dos and don’ts for when facing an employee with an issue:

Dos

  1. Do – Listen.  When an employee starts to raise an issue it can be very tempting to start debating the situation there and then.  The challenge is that the employee is probably more prepared than you are and may also be feeling fairly emotional.  It can be beneficial to allow the employee just to talk and then let them know that you need time to think about what’s been said and that you’ll meet them later to discuss things in more detail.
  2. Do – Stay calm.  The employee may say all sorts of things that you don’t agree with but reacting isn’t helpful.  You need to remain calm no matter what is said otherwise the validity of any points you make may get lost because of how you deliver them.
  3. Do – Encourage informal resolution.  This should be set out as the first step of your grievance process anyway but try and encourage employees to resolve their issues informally rather than moving straight to a formal process.
  4. Do – Remember that some things can’t be ignored.  Employees and managers need to remember that there are some things which, once they are said, can’t be put back in the bottle!  A company has a legal responsibility to protect employees.  Therefore, if a serious allegation is raised, the company is obliged to take action even if the employee is happy to let the matter go.  Consider this.  An employee tells you that they have been sexually harassed by a team member but they don’t want to do anything further about it.  You let the matter go.  The accused employee goes on to sexually harass another team member who discovers that they have behaved this way before and no action was taken.  You failed to meet your legal obligation to protect your employees and you are therefore in a very difficult position should the second harassed employee decide to take legal action.  So, be careful if an employee says they want to talk to you in confidence or off the record.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t – Make promises you can’t keep.  It can be very very tempting to give an employee some sort of assurance that they will get what they want just to make them go away.  All you’re doing is putting off dealing with the problem and probably making it worse.  The truth may be unpalatable to the employee but they will need to hear it at some point and the sooner the better.
  2. Don’t – Add drama.  If an employee is upset and emotional they need you to be a calming presence not someone that adds fuel to the fire.  The employee’s story may sound credible and desperately unfair but remember that your role is to provide balance.  You need to be the voice of reason and help the employee to understand that there may well be a series of factors that they haven’t considered.

What next?

If an informal approach can’t resolve the issue then the formal grievance process will need to be used.  Next week we’ll look at how you can manage that process and the key steps you need to follow.

Can we help you?

If you’re currently facing an issue with an employee and would like some support in considering your options then do give us a call on 0203 319 1649 and speak with one of our advisers.  One of the key strengths of our advisers is that we’re all business people as well as HR professionals.  That means our solutions are practical and we can help you get the outcome you need.