Career Clinic

Q: A member of my team is complaining that another team member is lazy, delegates to others despite not having the authority to do so, is dismissive of service users and abrasive with other staff. He only does this when my deputy and I are not around, and the team member complaining does not want to go public. What should I do?

A: First, gather examples from your complainant of things the member of staff in question has said or done, and under what circumstances. This will help to give you a better picture of the likely severity of the problem.

At one end of the spectrum, it may become apparent that there are some personal issues between the two staff members and your complainant may be overstating the case. At the other end of the spectrum, it may be that you should be investigating the issues under a formal procedure, such as performance management or possibly disciplinary. Alternatively it may have been that the unit was understaffed at the time, delegation was the only way of getting things done and there really isn’t an issue.

The next step would normally be to talk to the person in question. An exception to this is where the initial information indicates that there are potentially serious disciplinary issues. If that is the case, follow your disciplinary procedure, which is likely to say that someone other than you will investigate so that you are available to hear an appeal if necessary.

But if you feel that although there is some substance to the allegations you need only pursue the matter informally, arrange to meet him, set out what you are being told has happened and ask him to give his account of events. You also need to establish whether this is normal behaviour or something that has manifested itself fairly recently, perhaps because of some domestic problems affecting his ability to work well.

You must decide whether you are dealing with a conduct or a ­competence matter: is he deliberately under-performing or does he not have the skills to do the job well. Use your knowledge of his work record to consider whether there might be a training need or a case for closer supervision.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant

A: If the person making the complaint wants it to be investigated, he or she needs to make it official. That does not mean that they have to be named. But it does mean that they have to be willing to have their allegations investigated. Also, if they want it investigated properly, the information they provide needs to be specific – what has the colleague in question actually done that evidences laziness, unauthorised delegation, abrasiveness and so on?

If your complainant is not prepared to make it official you should inform your deputy of the unofficial complaint and keep a record of anything unsatisfactory in the performance of the individual complained about.

You should also tell your complainant that your ability to respond depends on them being prepared to back up what is being said. Complaining without taking responsibility for the complaint is whining!

Gavin Jinks, training and education officer, children and young person’s department, Derby City Council

29 November question

Q: I want to take two weeks off at Christmas but, although my boss initially said it would be fine, we have now been told that everyone’s leave will be limited. What are my rights? Aren’t my holiday days mine to use as I see fit? And shouldn’t I be able to take them given that my boss had already verbally given me the green light?

We will answer this question in the 29 November issue of Community Care. Please e-mail your responses by 19 November to

Do you have your own career dilemma? Send your comments or questions for consideration by our HR expert and your peers to


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