With any relationship, good communication is important and this is particularly so for workplace relationships. Poor working relationships between line managers and employees can cause workplace disputes and what may well have been a minor grievance could escalate quickly in to a major issue if it is not dealt with.
Disciplinary and grievance procedures, whilst on the one hand promote good management practice, on the other hand can leave managers unsure what steps to take if they have not been trained on the procedures and how or when to use them. If you already have disciplinary and grievance procedures in place, ensure your managers know about them, understand how to use them and who they can speak to in your company if they need advice should a matter arise with an employee. Do not be in a situation where managers are avoiding using the measures in place because they are wary of the consequences of starting the process and would rather ignore the matter hoping it will go away. If you do not have any formal procedures in place, you need to consider putting some in place. They need to be straight forward in their stages as well as an everyday tool that can be used for managing staff and which managers feel confident they can use effectively. One key aspect to it is to make sure that managers are trained and coached in how to deal with the ‘difficult conversation’ that may have to take place. Ignoring a disciplinary issue and simply turning a blind eye to it may mean a confrontational discussion does not have to take place there and then but if not dealt with will mean that it has to be dealt with later and may make it harder to handle.
It is also important to strike the right balance between informal and formal measures. In many instances disciplinary and grievance issues can be resolved satisfactorily with a quiet, informal word. However, in more serious cases, such as discrimination or bullying, it may be more appropriate to move straight into a formal process. Line managers need to be wary of an informal chat slipping into a formal procedure and ensure that discussions and issues raised are documented and carried out in a correct manner.
The focus when dealing with a grievance or disciplinary should be on resolving the dispute and not on either party just trying to get their point across and being believed.
For employment law advice, please contact Neil Largan on 01904 624185 or John Broadbridge on 01653 600070.