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Discrimination, victimisation, bullying or not?


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I have been employed with my current employer for 17 years or more with an exemplary record. I am an exterior sales person who has just received a written warning because my "results fall way below the acceptable standards" (is there a recession??). However, a colleague of mine was also in the same position 18 months ago where his figures were poor yet he was transferred to an interior sales position because of this and he still carries this job.

In a nutshell, the two scenario's are the same yet I have been disciplined severely. I suspect that this action was more severe because I took a grievance to my managers superior 'over his head' but not before discussing it with him first. Is this a case of discrimination, victimisation or bullying? or perhaps none at all? Any advice is welcomed.

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Hi there, I can only give an opinion, but hopefully it will be useful.

 

With regards the grievance, I think it will always be hard to prove this has had a direct impact in the severity of punishment unless there is actual proof (witness to a conversation etc). Also business circumstances may have been different when your colleague was transferred. Are they actively recruiting in this dept at the moment?

 

During the meeting before you recieved your written warning did you get any offer of help to improve your target quota? Were you given an informal/verbal warning beforehand to give you a chance to improve before going to more serious disciplinary procedures? Have they given you comparison figures of what others are achieving?

 

It might be a good idea to be proactive in seeking help on how you can improve. If they fail to offer any help then that all goes to back you up should it go further.

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Thanks for your posts guys.

 

flipper79: They had been active in recruiting by way of interviews for a job identical to my own and as a replacement to my 'demoted' colleague, but not so much in recent weeks. I was not offered direct help but all of the sales team were 'warned' of troubled times ahead and told to actively seek sales from new customers about six months ago. However, I was not given a verbal warning prior to the formal meetings. The comparison figures by other members of the sales team are similar to my own, all down on sales and GP, some more than others.

 

heliosuk: The grievance came about because a third of my last years bonus was 'held back' as a dangling carrot to make me achieve a virtual impossible target in sales, I disputed this because I had earned that bonus last year and felt it should not worked for again. My manager has verbally admitted that this might not have been the best action to take in hindsight.

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It does sound as if it may be worth appealing the decision if you're within the timeframe. You could certainly ask why you weren't offerred help in how you could improve. You could question why people with similar stats haven't been reprimanded if that's the case...something that could be seen as victimisation I would think. And I think you could also question why it went straight to a more serious discplinary action. It'd be interesting if someone could clarify the legal standpoint with not hitting targets in a sales job. Can you be reprimanded essentially for someone choosing not to purchase a product? Is there anything in your contract saying that certain sales targets must be reached?

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Thanks for the response flipper79, I have appealed against the written warning and I have a meeting arranged with my manager's boss this coming week where I will be raising the points you have suggested and a few more of my own too! In answer to your question, there is nothing in my contract that states anything about reaching targets, in fact it doesn't mention anything about targets at all - come to think of it the contract I have is for another position I held with the company 12-18 months ago and I have never had it updated, I suppose that is too long a story to tell at the moment!

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I think it may be an idea to clarify the contract situation with an organisation like ACAS, just in case there's something there that can help with the meeting.

 

One thing I would remember though, and that's the level of disciplinary. Yes, you've recieved a relatively severe disciplinary but you're not at final written yet. Make sure to go in calm and be assertive and knowledgable about your rights, but try not to use accusations or be aggressive in how you point out any facts. I'm presuming you still want to work for them so a bit of compromise where it's fair for both parties, and requests of help (training) will hopefully sway them into overturning the decision. But to reiterate, without being a doormat of course! :grin:

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Whoa!

It's not clear if the grievance has been heard or not, or though it seems it might have. If it has, what was the out come, who was it investigated by, were you sent the results of the findings, were you given/told that you could appeal it? And er.... hold on. On no account should you be having a meeting with your managers boss about the appeal. He was the one who "supposedly" conducted the investigatigation into the grievance. JR, whilst I appreciate this is a personal thing you haven't given nearly enough info. Something isn't ringing true here. For example, generally with comission there is a legal requirement to pay as usually forms terms and conditions however with "bonus" this is usually discretionary as is the right to an annual pay increase.

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Thanks for the response heliosuk. This is a really difficult problem to describe in brief because so much is involved but I'll try to answer your points somehow!

The grievance stemmed from a profit related bonus earnt in the previous year, there is nothing in the company handbook or my contract that mentions anything about it's existence, any profit is shared (unequally and at the managers discretion) between all the employees, it is not guaranteed! However, I was verbally told by my manager that 30% was being held back and I could have it if I reached these certain targets (in a nutshell). I disagreed with this as I had never heard of this before and I raised the issue with my manager’s boss. The grievance was heard and investigated by him and a meeting was held with all three of us and the outcome was there was not going to be any movement from them but if I wanted to 'earn' my bonus I would have to achieve certain targets by the end of September, these targets in the current climate are virtually non-achievable I hasten to add. It is from here onwards that I was invited to a disciplinary meeting and subsequently issued with the written warning, at no stage was I given a verbal warning. I have now been invited to an appeal meeting hosted by my manager’s boss, I understand this meeting is just him and myself. I hope that this explains things a little clearer to you!

Edited by J_R
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Thanks JR for this. Now it seems a lot more clear. I'll assume I am correct in the following.

 

The grievance you lodged was in relation to your bonus. As I have said before, there is a major difference between bonus and comission. If it's a bonus related grievance then I think you are on a hiding to nothing unless you can prove this was paid monthly as a result of your sales, which then could be construed as commission.

 

From what I have read, it would seem to me that this employer is tightening down the screws for some reason possibly for the one you admit that the targets are unacceptable. I.e. there's a recession. Personally I'd ask if the managers and directors are subject to the same conditions and ask for evidence of it.

 

What I don't understand is the written warning.

 

It's this I would lodge the grievance against as to why. Personally I'd ask for an informal meeting with the senior management to ask them what is going on and how you might be able to help. Then take it from there.

 

Very odd one this but on face value it seems like some information within the company has been misconstrued.

 

Sorry if it seems negative to your post but I'd talk all through with the manager's manager. Something seems to me to have got out of hand and perhaps could have been dealt with a bit more decorum given your length of service. Perhaps this should also be pointed out.

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