HR problems pageWednesday, January 5th, 2011
Here we take our weekly look at answering some of the tricky HR questions we’ve been emailed. If you have a tricky HR question you needs answering email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post the best here with an answer each week.
I am secretary/PA to a man who is a bit of a bully. He tries it on with me from time to time but I think he dare not overdo it because he knows I would leave. However he has some of the staff in tears. Do you think I should do something or just leave it to other people to deal with their own problems?
You certainly sound concerned. First you should not put up with any bullying yourself. If you dislike what he says or does, tell him so. You need not be offensive; just say something like “I enjoy working for you, but I really do not like you treating me like that. It makes me feel angry” or “It really upsets me”. And I really think you should help your colleagues by telling him how he upsets them – that if he continues to do so they are likely to go off sick with stress. And point out to him that anyone who feels bullied could leave and take the organisation to court for constructive dismissal and him personally for harassment and bullying. If that fails I suggest you take the matter to your HR staff who are likely to deal with the problem discreetly but firmly, or to your chief executive or other appropriate senior manager.
Balance of Probability
I recently managed a disciplinary hearing in which there was conflicting evidence. This evidence was overwhelmingly against the man, yet I could not be absolutely sure so I let him off. Did I do right?
You did not do wrong by giving an employee the benefit of the doubt. However in a disciplinary hearing you do not have to apply the criminal law criterion of “guilt beyond all reasonable doubt” but rather make your decision on the basis of what is called “the balance of probability”. Make sure that you have investigated fully and given all parties full opportunity to present their evidence and defences. Then weigh up the evidence against and the evidence for the employee. Which weighs more heavily? If the evidence against the employee seems heavier, ask yourself why? Is it on the result of the investigation, the reliability of the people concerned? Or is it because you have never really liked the man? If you are satisfied about the evidence and your objectivity, then ask yourself “Is it more probable that he is guilty or not guilty?” If the former then, you may safely dismiss. But you must keep full notes of all the evidence and the criteria on which you based your decision.