Q: I have a member of staff who will not co-operate with the team. I have tried to address the issues and my manager has told me to “just manage her – that’s your job”. But when I’ve tried to do this, she accuses me of being racist, and colludes with my manager, the only other Asian woman in the team. What can I do?
A: Someone raising a “discrimination flag” ought to make us all question whether we have treated that person detrimentally. Be honest about your answer. Treating people within your team “differently” is not necessarily a detriment. Valuing diversity means just that.
I suspect the question concerning you is: “Am I going to have to go to a tribunal about this?” If this is the outcome, a tribunal would require the complainant to answer questions including: “what exactly happened”, “what was said or done” and, crucially, “how did that make you suffer a detriment compared with other team members who are not of the same race?”
The best thing for you to do right now is set a date for a supervision session, and expect – not ask – your member of staff to be there. Ensure that you both have a clear agenda: it’s a helpful way of setting out what needs to be done, how it will be measured, what support will be in place, and so on. Keep clear file records of everything you have discussed, what you have agreed or disagreed, and the outcome.
Use your manager – and not because of a possible race connection, although she might be able to help in that area too – and explain to her that you need to start to build a relationship with your member of staff. Ask for her help and see what she says. If she resists, then go to her manager. This is not adversarial this is what you are entitled to. It’s not good enough for her to simply say “manage it”. She should be helping you, in the same way you would be helping a member of your team struggling with a problem.
Also, remember that all team members are expected to attend and to contribute appropriately to team meetings. Away-days should also be obligatory for all. Sometimes, and often in the caring professions, we treat these things as a voluntary option. But they’re not.
It is also critical not to cave in and go off “with stress”. If you work your way through it, you’ll be fine, even if your colleague chooses not to co-operate. If you go off on long-term sick without having tried, you are damaging yourself. Don’t give up.
Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant
A: Make sure you have evidence of not treating this member of your team differently from any other member when it comes to disciplinary action. Have you got any notes from previous supervision sessions, team meetings or performance reviews with other team members that show you taking issue with other staff members about their failure to co-operate with something that would help you prove this is your normal approach to tackling this sort of thing? But long-term, if the damage to your relationship is irreparable, there may be a case for seeing if this particular team member could be transferred to a different team.
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