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People Matter September 2016

Chairman of the bored

While some employees may find aspects of their work tedious, we hope not to hear too many examples like this one from France. A former employee of a perfume company has taken his old company to court claiming “bore out”! That is, he was sidelined and given such tiresome or meaningless tasks that he suffered serious health problems and was dismissed after seven months of being on sick leave.

He described “an insidious descent into hell” and blamed the experience for giving him epilepsy, ulcers, serious depression and sleep problems. The price of this? Well, €360,000 is what he claimed in court.

“Bore out”, the opposite of the more established “burn out” when someone is worked so hard they break down, is perhaps a colourful way of describing a method of constructive dismissal. This is when a workplace environment is made so unpleasant that an employee is forced to leave one way or another. In this case by debilitating a person to such an extent that they can’t function.

Whilst the terminology may be headline grabbing, French courts have accepted 244 similar cases. And whether it makes the courts or not, the problem of a stagnating employee is not a good one to have. It will cause bad feeling on both sides of the employee/employer relationship and is hardly going to make for optimum productivity.

Good old-fashioned people management is proactive against so called “bore out”: regular performance reviews, good lines of communication and checking that job descriptions continue to match skill sets all help in preventing these situations from developing. For help and advice, call The HR Dept.

Lead by example

“Lead by example” is a well-worn maxim, but one that often rings true. Doing things properly yourself in front of your employees, including the basics like attendance and punctuality, is a sure-fire way to instil a positive workplace culture.

Nine top officials in Dubai found this out the hard way when Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, made some surprise early morning inspections.

Upon arriving at the Departments of Land and Economic Development, he discovered the desks of many of the directors to be empty. The very next day, retirement was imposed upon the absent leaders (not an option in the UK so an alternative solution would be required!) to make way for a fresh leadership at the helm. Swift consequences indeed.

Poor leadership will more often have an eroding effect on performance as the bad habits of managers percolate down an organisation and become entrenched. Worth keeping an eye on, even if you are not a Head of State!

£16,000 says you should follow procedure 

There was another reminder from the tribunals recently about the importance of following the right processes.

Yolanda Zawadzka was Operations Director of a labour recruitment firm until she was suddenly dismissed without notice. She claimed for redundancy, holiday pay, notice pay as well as unpaid wages (staff don’t need two years’ service to claim for this), and it didn’t take the judge long to side with her. The award for all the above added up to £16,000.

This was handed out with a warning to the recruitment firm that the same procedural failings should not happen again.

Three HR tips to manage commuting chaos

Southern Rail’s summer strikes have brought commuter chaos. Commuting is often a miserable experience at the best of times. But when circumstances beyond an employee’s control mean they arrive late, have lengthened journey times, are perhaps out of pocket from paying for alternative transport and are downright stressed out, it is hardly going to make for a productive day’s work.

Transport strikes can happen anywhere at any time. Few businesses are likely to be completely immune, so anything you can do to manage their impact is likely to make for happier employees and better productivity. Here are three HR tips to minimise the disruption that transport strikes could cause.

1. Location, location, location. No, we are not suggesting you just let them have a day off to watch reality TV! But you could think about the most useful place for them to work. If you don’t already allow home working, perhaps this is the time to make that trial you had been putting off. A relaxed employee, not having commuted at all, will have a much better mindset to hit the ground running with the day’s work. If trying out such initiatives, make sure you have the appropriate policies in place. We can advise here.

2. Flexible friends.  If home working really isn’t an option – perhaps meetings must be attended or the right kit cannot be provided remotely – an alternative to explore is flexi-time so that staff miss the morning and evening rush hours. They still work on site but may do say 10:30am – 6:30pm instead of the normal 9am -5pm.

3. Empathy. However you decide to handle transport disruption, be sure to include a good dose of sympathy. As well as a drop in productivity your employees may be missing time with family or coping with personal issues like claustrophobia on an over-crowded bus or train. Take each case as it comes and try to balance their needs with those of the business.

What SME managers can learn from the Sports Direct scandal

Sports Direct’s employment antics have been a mainstay of the news for months. From an employee giving birth in work toilet, through their “six strikes and you’re out” policy, to excessive use of zero-hour contracts, the bad news has kept coming. Being in the dark has not been seen as much of a defence for boss Mike Ashely. So what can SME business leaders learn from all this?
Being well informed is the first lesson. In our digital age it’s all too easy to lose touch with what’s happening on the ground. Owners and senior managers should make it their business to know what’s going on. Second, be wary of arbitrary rules and systems like “six strikes” – they tend to cause more problems than they solve.

Simple people management is often the best solution. And third, when you identify problems, take advice and act fast. The quicker you deal with issues, the less likely they will escalate into major HR headaches or damage your brand.

Economy of health

Having covered “bore out” in this issue (see Chairman of the Bored), it’s right to take a look at “burn out” too. A study looking at Danish firms unexpectedly linked export growth with a rise in sickness levels.

“Unexpected” because export growth normally stimulates wage rises. So it was anticipated that health and wellbeing would go up alongside employee wealth. Turns out the welfare loss!from increased sick rates, when worked out relative to pay rises was 17.3% for the average woman and 4.9% for the average man. With this in mind, it suggests that just chucking money at busy employees isn’t the most effective way to sustain growth.

Far better to do that in combination with a managed approach to health and wellbeing. The HR Dept can help with a range of product options in this area, as well as expert advice, so give us a call.

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