Career Clinic

Q) My manager wants me to attend a “performance management” meeting with her and HR. I want to take my solicitor but they won’t agree to it. What are my rights?

A) Your employment rights are many and varied but the ones concerned with performance management should be contained in your organisation’s policy and procedure documents. Copies of the relevant procedure should have been included with the letter inviting you to the meeting. If they weren’t, ask your HR department for one.

Generally speaking, taking a solicitor with you is a costly and not very helpful exercise. Legal staff are expert in civil and criminal law, not in managing people. If you are in an employment tribunal, legal representation is a good idea, although not actually necessary for the process. In that forum, they can steer you through the legislative minefield and ensure that your case is prepared for and dealt with correctly. But this does little to help create an action plan to resolve whatever difficulties you are having at work.

A much better option, and one which should be a clear right in your procedure document, is to take a good trade union or staff representative into your meeting to support you.

Most trades unions have a “pre-existing condition” clause in their joining literature. This means they are not very happy to have members join only because they are in a spot of bother and are looking for a cheap alternative to a solicitor. As a human resources person, I am more than happy to contribute to the trade union recruitment cause and advise people to join a good representative group that is recognised by their organisation.

The operative words are “good representative group” – an ineffective representative can do more harm than good. If you are already a member, ask for support, or you can normally take a work colleague instead.

Contrary to popular opinion, the personnel and human resources person is not a management puppet but is there to help you. They should be clear about where the problems (or perceived problems) are, and facilitate a plan of action to support you in changing your performance, if that is the issue.

My advice would be to approach the meeting in a positive manner. Take as many notes as you wish (tape recording is normally a no no, and shouldn’t be necessary anyway) and try to come out of the meeting with an idea of where any problems might be, what everyone is going to do to resolve them, and when. You should also expect a follow-up meeting to check everything is going OK and that the action plan is a realistic one.

The point of the exercise is to reach resolution, not to punish anyone.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant

Your questions answered by Community Care readers
A) A couple of year’s ago, I was asked to attend a similar “performance meeting”. The implication was definitely that I hadn’t been doing my job properly, despite the fact I had been working there for more than two years by that point. It transpired during the meeting that my job had basically changed and no one had bothered to tell me about it. I felt somewhat vindicated by this revelation, and we agreed on a compromise, which worked for a while. But the problem with these processes is that there can be so much bad blood by the end. I started applying for other jobs and left 10 months later. Even if you manage to sort things out, you may find the same thing and feel the need to move on.

Name and address withheld

Next week’s question

Q: I have been in my first supervisory role for four months and it has become apparent that I have “inherited” several long-standing problems within my somewhat dysfunctional team. In particular, one member of staff seems to resent my appointment and is doing everything possible to provoke me and his colleagues – arriving late, leaving early, arranging visits to coincide with team meetings etc. Is there anything I can do about him?

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