Lindsey Cartwright is a member of Morton Fraser’s employment law team based in the Glasgow office. She advises both employers and employees on a wide range of employment law issues, including unfair dismissal, compromise agreements, business reorganisations, redundancy, workplace discrimination and restrictive covenants.
She acts for clients at all stages of the employment relationship and regularly represents clients in the Employment Tribunal and EAT across the UK.
Lindsey is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association and a Licentiate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.
Morton Fraser is a leading full-service law firm working with large multinationals, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations across Europe.
We are delighted that Lindsey will be answering your questions here each month.
I employ ten people in my business. We run a very tight ship and teamwork is really important. One of the team is starting to be a bit difficult. She doesn’t do as she is asked within the timescales set and is being snappy with her colleagues when they chase her for work. She also has a tendency to gossip with others, but doesn’t always get her facts right. This can sometimes lead to people worrying about things happening at work when there is actually nothing to worry about. It is creating a bad atmosphere and I am starting to feel that people don’t trust me because they hear one thing from her and another from me afterwards. Everyone is starting to feel exasperated with the whole situation and I am concerned that I will start to lose the good staff. The employee involved has been with me for four years and I haven’t had any issues with her until the last 9 months. I don’t know what to do. Help!
Have you tried taking the employee aside and asking her if something has changed in the last 9 months which might be affecting her work? I would recommend that you do this because there does seem to have been a change in her attitude over that period. Make it clear to her that you are asking out of concern for her and to see if there is anything that you can do to help.
If she says that nothing has changed and that there isn’t anything wrong, tell her that you are only asking because you have noticed a change in her at work over that period and it is concerning you. Make sure that you have several examples available to use to demonstrate to her what has not been acceptable behaviour. Try to have an open discussion with her about why these things happened, what her rationale was etc. If she is resistant to this, tell her that you simply want to clear the air in an informal way, so you can get on better in future. You want her to understand how you are feeling about things and want to be open with her so that she can be open with you about things too.
If she continues to be resistant to this, tell her that if you can’t resolve things informally, then the only recourse left open to you will be to follow disciplinary action each time something happens. However the discussion goes, make sure that you put regular appointments with her in the diary for the next 3 months or thereabouts, so that you can catch up with her more often and tell her if things are improving (or not, as the case may be). If they don’t improve, then you will have no option but to take disciplinary action against her, but this may well be what she needs to make her realise the seriousness of what is happening.
Whatever action you take, it will be clear to the others in the team that you are starting to actively manage her. That will send them a positive message that you won’t just let them take the brunt of bad behaviours and will win respect from them for dealing with a tricky situation. If anyone is thinking of leaving because of the situation, then this might prompt a re-think.
You should note that if, having spoken to her, she tells you that there is something going on in her personal life which is impacting on her work, see whether or not there is anything that you can do to support her. If she says that there isn’t continue along the above lines, making sure that she realises the impact of her actions on others. Put in place an arrangement for her to be able to speak to you more easily if she has a difficulty with something, rather than ignoring it and then letting it impact on other members of the team. If she continues to fail to do this, take disciplinary action. Whilst you are expected to be sympathetic, you are not expected to let it impact on your business without doing anything about it.
If you would like to ask Lindsey a question relating to your employment or a problem being faced in your organisation, please email your question to us at firstname.lastname@example.org