Career Clinic

Your questions answered by Community Care readers

I am a new manager. One member of staff is doing all he can to provoke me and his colleagues – arriving late, leaving early, avoiding team meetings. What can I do?

A: There are several things you can – and indeed should – do. It is not uncommon to find your managerial skills tested early on in a new role, nor to find that the reason your post was vacated was largely because your predecessor failed to deal with performance issues at an early stage! If you tackle these problems in a supportive way early on you are not just dealing with an awkward member of staff but are setting the stage for an effective team and avoiding unnecessary problems further down the line.

People handle change in various ways. Some embrace the opportunity to do new things or to do the same things differently. Others have a fear of moving out of their comfort zone. Being clear about the standards you expect – including on attendance – will help your team to understand why old habits which may have been ignored, and therefore actually condoned, have to change.

Good communication is the key. Sit down one to one with this member of staff and go through the issues. This is not formal performance management at this stage. It is the best way to find out whether there are some underlying issues you need to be aware of which will inform the subsequent actions you take – namely whether it is a conduct or capability issue. I call it the “Can do, won’t do” (conduct issue) versus the “Can’t do, want to do” (capability issue) situation.

It is also important to remember that the rest of the team will find it helpful if you are seen to be addressing the issues. This does not, of course, mean making an example of the difficult member of staff and singling them out. Some small, practical things which may help are raising the issues in team meetings and agreeing some ground rules about, for example, who is going to guarantee to be in the office to deal with the phones and visitors and so on, particularly at the beginning and end of each day. Perhaps a rota would spread the load fairly? I could give you a list of things to try, but the best ideas will come from your team if you involve them in the planning.

You may find that the non-attendance is a bit of a smokescreen for some deeper-rooted performance issues (which we can look at in more detail next week). But, whatever the problem, simply by recognising there is one, you have taken the first step towards resolving it.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant

A: Perhaps this person thought they were in line for promotion and think you have stolen their job? Try to find out whether this is the case. If they did go for it, they are probably (a) feeling rejected and (b) biding their time before they move on. If you want to keep them, you need to come up with a challenge to keep them interested in the short-term, and another potential career opportunity for them to aim for in the longer term.

Name and address withheld

A: The chances are that the problems in your team are as much about your predecessor’s poor management skills as the team members themselves. If that is the case, they may well respond to someone actually bothering to show an interest in them and what they do. Start by talking to each of them, making sure they understand their jobs, where they fit within the wider team and see how you go from there. You might be surprised!

Name and address withheld

Next week’s question

Q: What can I do if non-attendance is a smokescreen for deeper-rooted performance issues? We want your views. Please send your advice for publication to

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