Jump to content


_craigymac_

Unfair disciplinary process

style="text-align:center;"> Please note that this topic has not had any new posts for the last 2527 days.

If you are trying to post a different story then you should start your own new thread. Posting on this thread is likely to mean that you won't get the help and advice that you need.

If you are trying to post information which is relevant to the story in this thread then please flag it up to the site team and they will allow you to post.

Thank you

Recommended Posts

My wife works for a large Accountancy firm. On Monday afternoon she received a letter, from the Partner heading her team, stating that the company were conducting a performance review and based on the companies performance metrics she had been highlighted as under-performing in one or more areas. The letter did not provide any specific examples or any supporting evidence of this claim. The letter then stated that she was to attend a formal disciplinary meeting. Below this were three points listing general claims of under-performance such as not undertaking work in a timely manner, not managing the workload of team adequately, poor commercial management. Again no specific examples or supporting evidence were provided for these claims.

 

My wife is completely shocked by the letter as neither she or her line manager has received any verbal or written feedback to indicate that she is underperforming. In fact she is actually meeting or exceeding all of the performance metrics agreed in her last performance meeting. She actually received a bonus for her performance a few months back! Basically she feels the reason for the letter is that she challenged the recent targets set by the Partner as being unrealistic given the level of resources and staffing at her teams disposal. This was two weeks ago. A senior member of her department told confidentially told my wife that she was not on the original underperformance list but appeared on it last week.

The last paragraph of the letter states that "“these performance measures are sufficiently serious that if not remedied in accordance with the targets stated above and in line with the time frame we will outline to you at the meeting, they could result in a formal warning in accordance with the Capability Policy and ultimately dismissal.” This being the case we strongly suspect that she has decided to pursue disciplinary action regardless of what my wife says during the meeting. A very large concern is she only joined the firm at the end of March this year and so I understand has v.little comeback should she face unfair disciplinary action. I would therefore appreciate any advice as how to best deal with this.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would recommend avoiding defensiveness, but ask for a structured support framework of how she can meet the expected targets and to be given support and training to do so. Best listen and hear what is really being said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a strong whiff of victimisation in this. Was she asked to an investigatory meeting prior to the disciplinary?

 

In her defense she should put the following in writing:

- She is unhappy with the wording of the letter she received, the lack of specifics make it difficult for her to respond to. She should request specific details of exactly what areas are being referred to in order that she can fairly respond.

- Her line manager is happy with her work and she has received no feedback, formal or informal, indicating otherwise.

- She has met or exceeded all targets agreed in her last performance review, resulting in receipt of a performance related bonus.

- She is concerned that this disciplinary meeting is in some way related to concerns she raised to the partner about the business.

- That if there are concerns about her performance, she would prefer this to be handled informally in the first instance, with the help and support of her line manager and the partner, rather than go down the formal disciplinary route. Therefore she requests that the disciplinary meeting is cancelled and replaced with an informal meeting with positive goals rather than negative ones. Stress that she is committed to doing a good job and would like the chance to resolve any problems informally, with help and support being given as needed.

- She would suggest that going forward, the partner raises any issues with her at the time to allow rectification of any perceived problems.

 

It is important that she puts some or all of these points in writing as soon as possible in order to provide a written record for future reference. If it becomes apparent from the response or the firm's conduct during the disciplinary that she is not being treated fairly then she may need to consider putting in a complaint for victimisation.

 

Is your wife a qualified accountant? If so, the accountancy body may be able to provide advice or support, including mediation, with regards to the situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

that's a pretty standard "buck up" letter to be fair. How long is the action plan for? should be 3 months ish.

 

the main measure of equity is "can about half the people meet the targets consistently". Can they?

 

Be careful. If your wife IS underperfoming she needs support and understanding to get there - not ranty husband - just be careful how you approach this yourself! the best thing to do is meet the targets in whatever (legal) way she can. whuile reviewing if that causes stress and she should be finding a new job.


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ps could decide to issue warning? Standard form letter wording. Means nothing about prejudgement of outcome or otherwise.


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think your wife needs to cover herself. Underperformance issues need to be dealt with supportively and encouragingly by management. The disciplinary process is only ever appropriate after a sustained period (probably several months) of informal support from the line manager and the partner. Most people won't respond positively to being disciplined in a situation like this, it will demotivate them and they'll view it as being that the employer doesn't value them and they'd be better off in another job, which could well be what the employer is trying to achieve.

 

The key points here are that your wife over-performed her targets and received a bonus for doing so, neither she nor her line manager have received any indication until now that there were any performance issues, and after raising work-related concerns to the partner she is suddenly accused of undeer-performing, despite another member of staff telling her that this was not previously the case. This smacks of victimisation, and it is important that your wife defends herself against this.

 

If the company was serious about improving performance, it would have raised the matter informally first and indicated what was expected. Your wife would then have had the chance to give any mitigating factors, e.g. unrealistic expectations, not enough staff to do the job required, and performance targets could have been agreed which were acceptable to everyone. How hands-on is the partner? Some partners at accountancy firms have a reputation for being avid golfers during working hours, so does he have the relevant expertise to judge your wife's work?

 

From what you say, your wife has met any targets put to her. I would strongly advise that she suggests addressing any performace issues on an informal basis (realistic targets are fine, but 'behaviour plans' or 'action plans' are for schoolkids). If your wife receives a warning for this, I would advise her to repudiate it in writing, while also making constructive suggestions to resolve the issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

let's not be bandying about terms that will confuse.

 

Victimisation" has a special, technical, meaning in employment law. It does not have its ordinary day to day meaning of "treating someone unfairly". In an employment law context it means treating someone less favourably than others because that someone has exercised, or intends to exercise, rights under specific legislation.

Thus there is specific statutory provision in the sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religious and age discrimination legislation outlawing victimisation of employees in specific circumstances - that is treating an employee less favourably than would otherwise have been the case because he has exercised, or intends to exercise, rights under that legislation.

 

Action plans are for people who need to take action. Is that only kids??


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Doesn't victimisation cover where someone is treated unfairly because they've raised a complaint or concern? I don't think it only relates to discrimination cases, my understanding is that it can cover cases where a complainant has suffered reprisals after complaining about matters such as holiday pay or other matters. The company handbook in this case may cover situations where reprisals are taken against someone raising a complaint or concern in good faith. Happy to be corrected if I'm wrong, but I'm not sure about this.

 

A properly constructed set of objectives, with the buy-in of all parties, which is fluid in the sense that it evolves as business needs change, where feedback is given and reviews provided, and where there is trust on both sides, meaning that if the objectives become unrealistic it will be recognised, likewise if feedback is given about sub-standard performance it will be taken on board, is a worthwhile exercise. An arbitary 'action plan' or 'behaviour plan' which is imposed without agreement and without a proper knowledge of the day to day job will most likely be viewed as patronising or a pretext for disciplining or getting rid of people in the future. That kind of thing is only suitable for kids, professional people simply won't buy into it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You may be thinking of union related activity or raising a formal grievance, neither of which are the case here.

 

Clealry you've had bad bosses in the past. I do get fed up of people tarring all managers with the same brush. I do action plan every single week to accomplish things. It's a simple project management requirement. You have no idea if the action plan is being imposed or discussed. The meeting hasn't even happened yet. You've assumed all fault is on one side and everyone is out to get someone. That is equally childish IME, and one of the main reasons for antagonism and problems in the workplace - no one talks to each other in a reasonable way because they are all paranoid!


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Emmzzi, it isn't paranoia if its true! There is a reason why people are suspicious of workplace diciplinary processes.

 

Surely it is victimisation if disciplinary action is taken for retaliatory purposes, whether the original concerns are raised formally or informally, no?

 

I have had good and bad bosses in the past, and I'm not saying all managers are bad, nor am I saying that all workers are paragons of endeavour. But I can only give advice based on the information given, the same as I would if an employer posted a thread and I felt I was able to advise. The facts presented here by the OP are:

 

i) OP's wife has been summoned to a disciplinary meeting regarding performance. The specific performance issues in question are not addressed in the letter.

ii) No informal concerns related to performance have ever been raised, quite the opposite, the OP's wife was given a performance-related bonus, and exceeded performance targets. The line manager was not aware of any performance issues related to the OP's wife.

iii) The summons to the disciplinary meeting came after the OP's wife raised concerns about resources, etc. at the firm. She was told informally that she was not initially on a list of under-performers, but was moved to this list after she raised her concerns.

 

In these circumstances, I can understand why the OP's wife might feel concerned that she is being got at, and my advice is for her to try and ensure that this doesn't happen. It is highly irregular for a matter such as this to immediately escalate to the formal disciplinary stage without concerns being raised informally and support being offered, surely you can see that. Who is to say such over-escalation won't occur again with the result being dismissal.

 

I completely agree with you - people need to speak to each other reasonably and I am a strong believer that most workplace issues can be dealt with by informal discussion. The OP's wife raised her concerns with the partner on an informal basis, the partner has raised concerns via the disciplinary process. The problem here is that once you start summoning people to disciplinary meetings and referring in letters to possible dismissal, trust breaks down and people are rightly on their guard, particularly given the underlying circumstances here. I'm always hesitant to apportion blame, as it tends to make matters worse, but the reason this situation has escalated to the point where reasonable discussion has become difficult is due to the actions of the employer. HR shouldn't be involved at this stage, they can't possibly know or understand the specific demands of an accountant's role, in the same way as an accountant wouldn't understand exactly what HR do. The employer would have been better in this case to, if performance is a genuine concern and not a cover for retaliation, approach the OP's wife on an informal basis and raise the issue, giving her a chance to respond.

 

I stand by my point that imposing 'action plans' on others won't work with adults unless the other person involved has some input and buys into the plan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My point is there is a specific legal definition of victimisation, which this activity does not meet.

 

What do you do with an underperformer if they won't buy into any kind of plan then? I put them on a plan anyway so later I have grounds for sacking them. If they won't work with me, I'm not having them drag the rest of the team down! There's a balance between team task and individual and if the individual won't or can't do the task and isn't acting like part of the team.... It's been 50/50 IME. The action plan process helps about half to perform well. It helps me get rid of the other half. Sometimes to other jobs we have that are more suited. Sometimes externally (I help with their cv). Sometimes no job is suitable.


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not so sure about the victimisation point but, as I say, I could be wrong.

 

Regarding underperformance, the first thing is to establish whether someone is actually underperforming. In this case it is far from clear that the OP's wife is. If they are underperforming then their line manager should find out why - workload may be too heavy/targets unrealistic, possibly underlying personal issues, possibly the person isn't up to the job. The line manager should make it clear that they want to help the member of staff perform well. Once this has been established, it can be agreed how to approach the problem, perhaps training or advice in time management, delegation or some other form of support. Often the mere fact that a problem has been raised can increase productivity and resolve the performance issue. At this stage HR or 'plans' should be nowhere near the process. The line manager should monitor the situation and provide constructive feedback. If there are still performance issues, a further meeting should take place similar to the first, where issues can be discussed. At this meeting, the line manager should inform the member of staff that they will monitor the situation and a further meeting should be scheduled in due course. At this meeting, if there has been no noticeable improvement, the line manager should inform the member of staff that performance has fallen below the standards expected, and seek agreement with the member of staff as to how the issues will be addressed. At all times the line manager and the other members of the team should be supportive. If there is still no improvement in performance and no reasonable underlying circumstances then the matter should become more formal. This should initially involve senior management, but if the situation doesn't improve and the issue becomes a disciplinary/performance related issue then HR may need to be involved. A plan may be necessary at this stage but it will need the buy-in of the member of staff otherwise it is unlikely to work. It is important to at all times measure the member of staff's performance against other members of the team so the person felt to be underperforming isn't being unfairly singled out. Remember that many members of staff will have undergone a competitive and rigorous interview process even to get a job offer, this process will help identify potential performance issues before the person is even hired. Also, many staff have probation periods where performance can be closely monitored. Passing probation is an implicit message that performance to date has been acceptable, and if the member of staff makes it that far then management has a responsibility to ensure that they are given every chance to succeed in the role. Part of the role of a team is to come together and help people in the team who are struggling with the workload or other performance issues, this is not being 'dragged down', it is teamwork.

 

The problem with the approach you suggest is that as you say, people don't talk to each other in a reasonable way. But this is because people are suspicious of HR and things like 'action plans'. You're suggesting that if someone doesn't agree to a plan that you suggest, and it may be that the person feels that the plan is not appropriate or achievable, you will put them on it anyway so that you can sack them later. This is why many people don't trust HR and view 'plans' as a first step in the process of being managed out of the door. It is unsurprising that in these circumstances and in the current economic climate people may become paranoid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I always say... I can be fluffy or I can tell you the truth. Only one of these things is of practical use.


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And the truth here as we know it is in points i) - iii) of post #10...

 

Your approach has, you say, a 50/50 success rate. I would lay a wager that the approach I have suggested (which incidentally, is along the lines of what most companies' stated approach to performance issues is in their published literature or company guidelines) would have a success rate of something like 90/10. Its nicer, its cheaper, and it works better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This depends how you define success. For me its getting the work done. For you it's about the individual. Your approach takes a long time to work with no guarantees. Often I don't have time for that kind of spoon feeding.


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Any employer is a collection of individuals, and any business takes a long time to work with no guarantees of success.

 

My approach allows employees, who have succesfully passed an interview process designed to assess their capability for a role and a probation period designed to monitor their performance in the role, every chance to succeed in the position for which they were hired.

 

The approach you suggest takes the responsibility for managing teams away from managers, costs money in terms of time spent by HR, advertising/agency fees for frequent hiring of new staff who may turn out to be worse than the person they're replacing, and costs of defending lawsuits. Due to higher staff turnover, the company will get a reputation as a poor place to work and in certain industries may lose business as staff turnover will put off customers who may have built relationships with existing members of staff. It will also lead to good staff losing their jobs and their livelihoods when they are wrongly classed as poor performers because their face doesn't fit, and will create a climate of fear among staff which will cause them to find a better job elsewhere. One thing it won't result in is the work getting done any better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I expect I am also going to hell for it. In a hand cart.


Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if your wife has only been there 7 or 8 months and wants to continue working there then I would suggest seeing what areas the company wish her to improve in and then doing her best to comply, just because she got a bonus a few months ago dosnt mean that there might not have been problems since or that the problem are in other areas. its not nice getting letters like this but at the end of the day you have a job to do and the boss wants it done a certain way, if you dont like it or cant do it then you are in the wrong job.


If I have been of any help, please click on my star and let me know, thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But its also important to establish that there are performance issues in the first place and that this episode isn't related to the concerns raised to the partner. It is also important that performance concerns are raised in the appropriate way rather then over-escalated. It is reasonable to expect that if she has recently received a performance-related bonus, if her manager wasn't aware of any performace issues, and if she herself has never been told of any performance issues in the past, then the employer regarded performance as satisfactory. If not, she should have been told before things got to this stage.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes but the thing is it is at this stage, in an ideal workd we would all go around pointing out problems as soon as we see them and offereing lots of help support etc etc but it dosnt always work like that in companies, as it has gone stright to this stage my opinion is that it is best to go to the meeting see what they want her to do and try and do it.


If I have been of any help, please click on my star and let me know, thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It isn't just in an ideal world that help and support is given for performance issues, its a core part of any manager's job. It is important to establish why things have gone to this stage, there is nothing wrong with de-escalating the situation and taking any issues forward on an informal basis, in fact this would be desired and is probably what the staff handbook will recommend should have been done in the first place.

 

Also, I'd say again that its important to try and establish that this is a genuine performance related issue and not some form of retribution as the OP's wife believes it might be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad to see this has generated a lot of debate.

 

Just to confirm neither my wife or her performance manager were aware of any concerns of underperformance either verbally or in writing prior to receiving the letter of disciplinary action.

 

She had the disciplinary meeting today. The Partner did not provide any documented evidence that my wife had failed to meet any of the performance measures that were agreed with her line manager. In contrast, my wife provided a document showing that she was meeting or exceeding all measures. As it was clearly stated in the disciplinary letter that she was identified as underpeforming based on these measures, does this then indicate that it was an unfair process?

 

The Partner focused on the bullet points . Again no documented evidence was provided just verbal statements. Some of the points she raised as performance issues were actually the responsibility of other, more senior, people on the team. When challenged on these points she retracted some and on others said that she may have got the round end of the stick or may not have had the full facts'. To me, this indicates that she has not performed a proper investigation prior to calling the formal disciplinary meeting and therefore indicates that it was an unfair process.

 

The Partner asked that my wife provide any evidence that would despute her claim of underperformance and they will make a decision on Monday. However, the Partner and HR have said that they will not provide the notes taken at the meeting. Therefore all my wife has is the original letter, which had only very general claims open to wide interpretations and her and her meeting companions notes, which may or may not tally up with what the HR representative jotted down. Doesn't seem an appropriate way of doing things to me.

 

Obviously I'm only giving my wifes side of things but on the assumption that the above statement are true, does it appear that my wife has a strong case for claiming that the process has been unfair to this point?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, this seems very unfair and actually quite odd, particularly since these issues haven't been raised before. Your wife should send an email giving her understanding of the points raised at the meeting, covering the facts that points highlighted as under-performing can actually be shown to be areas of over-performace, that she refutes the verbal statements which were made in the absence of evidence, that, as discussed at the meeting, some of the points raised were the responsibility of other members of staff, and that she appreciates the partner's retraction of certain statements where she wasn't in possession of the full facts. She may feel that the handling of the matter has caused her stress and that had she been made aware of any specific issues informally (perhaps as suggested in the staff handbook), they would have been addressed and that she is committed to continuing to do a good job. She may suggest that going forward any performance issues are raised by her line manager with a view to support and resolution of these problems without the need for escalation to a disciplinary hearing, and she may express concerns that she was cited for underperformance following her raising of separate concerns to the partner. She should request strongly for a copy of the notes taken at meeting by HR for her records. She may ask that any remaining areas where she is being accused of under-performance which weren't addressed and responded to at the meeting be specified exactly. She could suggest that this matter is best handled informally, and proceeded upon on that basis. She should request that if her email does not concur with their understanding of the meeting, that they reply by return email. She should print her email and and any response and keep them in a safe place.

 

She should of course dispute the accusation of under-performance based on the evidence she has, which should be sent to the partner and/or HR. She may also want to speak to some of the other partners informally if she knows them well enough.

 

Good luck, and I'm sorry you're wife is going through this. It does sound has though the partner is pursuing the matter in this way as part of some personal agenda.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The decision meeting was today and she was informed that she has been dismissed with three months notice.

 

In summary,

no informal verbal or written indications to under performance were provided prior to receiving notification of the disciplinary meeting.

 

This letter stated that the reason for the disciplinary meeting was due her performance metrics. My wife has provided evidence that she is meeting or exceeding all relevant performance measures.

 

The letter also included provided four brief written statements of a highly general and subjective nature.

 

During the disciplinary meeting, my wife asked for evidence to back up these. The partner could only provide verbal examples some of which were pointed out were clearly the responsibility of other people. My wife requested time to provide evidence against these claims now she was more aware of their nature. The meeting notes from the disciplinary meeting were not provided despite her requesting them. During this time my wife submitted a 14 page document providing evidence that rebutted all these points and demonstrated that she was performing at a good standard.

 

The outcome meeting was this morning. The partner said that she had reviewed the evidence, she felt she was under performing, that the partner did not have time to get her up to the required level and therefore she was going to dismiss her.

 

To date no specific written and substantiated evidence has been provided for this reasoning. It appears solely based on the partners opinion. Can this result in a straight dismissal without warning?

 

I have phoned ACAS. They appear of the view that unless the internal appeal is successful then she has no grounds for challenging this legally. This is because she has only worked there since March this year. Can anyone with an informed view confirm this?

 

She is not pregnant btw.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 Caggers

    No registered users viewing this page.


  • Have we helped you ...?


×
×
  • Create New...