Frankenstein unbound in the workplace

It is a common theme in the modern workplace, problematic staff. Unfortunately some staff remain problematic despite any level of support that you might offer them. At some point you may, as an organisation decide to take some positive action to attempt to remove that person from the workplace entirely. You are aware of the potential monetary risks and that of your reputation but keeping this person employed may well send you out of business anyway. Another alternative might be that your management team feel that moving the person to another area of work may alleviate the problem, and therein lies the rub.

What they have actually done (unless the person takes with them a clear performance plan) is to move the problem. Thereby leaving that person to be as disruptive in the new job as the old one. Failure to address performance does not make the problem go away. In fact it is simply likely to get worse, much worse. The conversation you might have with that person will be difficult in addressing the problem and may be unpalatable for them, but it needs to be done.

So if we step this up a gear, organisations effectively adopt an informal policy of managing performance by moving people. I have come across examples where the habit has got to the stage of moving all these people to one place of work. Taking you back to the title and if we remember what our eponymous hero Victor Frankenstein did, taking bits of bodies that did not work, stitching them all together in an attempt to breathe life into something that was dead, he created, by his own admission a monster. Not only that, the story goes on to show how his creation disgusts him and yet it eventually destroys him.

Okay so its a bit of a leap from Shelley to the modern workplace but you get my point. Put all these problems together and don’t deal with them and you will soon have your very own monster stalking your career down the corridors of your workplace. My advice, nip the issue in the bud before it gets out of control. Speak to the individual in question, after all if no one ever said what they were doing was wrong how were they to know? Oh and read Frankenstein (yes the book and not the film adaptations). Thanks for reading


Psychopath in the workplace

Ok so having just watched psychopath night from a programme that was on months ago I have picked up some disturbing news around the likelihood that your manager is a psychopath. Further to this the higher up the career ladder you reach the more likely that this is the case. Maybe something to think about when faced with dealing with issues in the workplace. The challenge is to work out how you might handle this person when faced with their manipulative and callous attitudes, or alternatively the shallow charm with which the likes of Hannibal Lechter was able to convince his victims that he was a nice guy whilst he opened a nice bottle of Chanti and eyed up their liver as an entree. Indeed the area where these fellows are found most prevalently is in banking. Note that being in a position to be able to gamble with money and not only that other peoples money is the ultimate goal in terms of achieving what many psychopaths desire, power and money.

So what to do if you are faced with this prospect? Resignation is not always an easy option. Being aware that accepting any person on face value can be naive. When you enter the workplace it is not like going down the pub with your mates. These people aren’t actually your friends, they are competing with you for status power responsibility and possibly that next promotion you were after. You are all there because you are paid to be there, no one pays you to go down the pub with your mates (or if they do I need there email address so I can send them my cv). By no means am I suggesting that you go to work tomorrow and change your dynamic or approach to colleagues who you have worked with for the last 20 years however you need to be at least self aware of other peoples drives and intentions. In short, keep your wits about you people, you never know if the charming young chap sat opposite tomorrow is secretly planning your untimely workplace demise!

HR as the teacher

The role of the teacher

The role of a teacher is complex and multi-faceted. A good teacher is able to evidence that the people who attend your sessions have learned. There is a requirement to be an excellent communicator in the sense that they must be able to engage learners who have different approaches to learning. The same sessions may need to be delivered in different ways to engage learners. The teacher needs to be organised and the delivery of the session must be well planned. Learning cannot happen by chance but is actually part of a series of well informed and well executed plans to engage and educate the learner.

‘A suitable learning environment is crucial for effective learning to take place. This involves not only the venue and resources used, but also your attitude and the support you give to your learners’

Gravells, A. (2007) Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector. Learning Matters

A teacher must be suitably qualified, experienced and informed, either via formal qualifications or well prepared research to enable them to deliver the training with confidence and authority. I have achieved this via a combination of the necessary qualification from the chartered institute of personnel and development and through several years of practical experience. This enables confidence in delivering the session and in providing examples and answers to questions from the learners. The teaching role is supportive and involves coaching and mentoring. This is carried out in my day to day work assisting managers with cases and advising them of the appropriate steps to take when dealing with staff.

Being a knowledgeable practitioner in the first instance in many professions is not enough. It is essential that you remain up to date with current best practice and any changes to legislation so the training that you deliver is up to date and relevant.

In relation to current legislation it is important that any educators are aware of their legal responsibilities. Most relevant in the training that I deliver are the Employment Rights Act 1996 which gives reference to most of the casework that I am involved in. covers areas such as disciplinary matters and maternity rights. One of the other areas that is given consideration is the Equality Act 2010 which has superseded legislation such as the Disability and Sex Discrimination acts. This is extremely relevant in designing training to ensure you do not unintentionally cause offence or breach legislation that is designed to protect people. Although it is unlikely to occur in the training session this needs to be a consideration in the session content.

A teacher must use Equality and diversity, considering that each individual learner will have varying needs to potentially be accommodated in the teaching session. Ideally I would want the opportunity to speak to the individual before the session about any concerns that they may have by taking them though the lesson plan and activities, taking account of any concerns that they may have and suggest alternatives that would address these concerns. I would consider any additional equipment that may be required and where this could be sourced from or ensuring that if for example someone required use of a laptop then either this could be provided or if they have their own there is somewhere that they are able to plug it in.  Support measure such as Access to work or internal funding may provide these facilities for people. The best source of information for ensuring that any reasonable adjustments are in place is the individual themselves. In my training I refer to an example of making the appropriate adjustment such as ensuring that the training session is on the ground floor if a wheelchair user is attending rather than installing a lift to enable them to get to the top floor. Other adjustments can be quite simplistic such as providing your hand-outs in large print if the person has sight impairment or recording the session for people who may struggle with their memory. Working in a highly diverse workforce it is also important to recognise and manage the fact that any workforce is a representation of the local community, some of which may hold views which are at odds with those held  by other learners or may hold prejudices which are potentially offensive. I need to be mindful that employees do not breach policy within the discussions and balance this with the rights to tackle issues which may be unpalatable to hear. It is important to remain impartial but also to challenge any behaviours which may be deemed offensive. Serious consideration needs to be given to the individual learner and the fact that a one size fits all training session may not be appropriate. Although it may be partially successful it is certain to fail to engage at least some of the learners. The training should recognise different learning styles and include this in the lesson plan. Without giving due consideration to kinaesthetic, auditory and visual learners via the use of practical tasks, videos and other engaging activities there would be a failure by the teacher to properly consider the needs of the learners.

In ensuring that the teaching environment is suitable there are a number of considerations to take into account. I would need to consider the room layout and giving consideration to learners who may prefer to sit at the front (or at the back!) There may be a requirement for an appropriate space for someone who had physical limitations. Another adjustment may be using colour schemes that are easy to read when operating PowerPoint.

There is a need to ensure learners are comfortable in the learning environment. If consideration is given to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs then at a very basic level this must be met to facilitate good learning.

There are at least five sets of goals, which we may call basic needs. These are briefly physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualisation. In addition we are motivated by the desire to achieve or maintain the various conditions upon which these basic satisfactions rest and by certain more intellectual desires.

Maslow, A.H.  A theory of human motivation (1943) Brooklyn College

If for example, I knew that a role-play task would make all the learners uncomfortable and then belligerently went ahead with it this would potentially breach the trust and rapport that has been established. I would be enforcing something that they do now want to be engaged in.

When dealing with adult learners it is important to ensure that the language used and methodology for teaching gives consideration to the breadth of learners you have. In my role I can be expected to train employees in the same session who may be employed in roles as diverse as consultant doctors, domestic supervisors and accountants. The range of professions and skills mean that in order to engage the learners in the session the delivery must be diverse and flexible enough to consider their needs. In applying the policies that they are being taught in the session it is important that you demonstrate the need to respect individuals by showing respect to them. I will often set ground rules for sessions which include managing confidentiality, asking staff to join in discussions with scenarios rather than divulging names, asking that each person is afforded the opportunity to speak if they wish to without interruption. Although individuals can be challenged, people have the right to hold and express their opinions in a safe and constructive way.

As a teaching professional it is important to consider the role that other professionals can have in supporting learners. In the training that I deliver there are several other human resources staff who also deliver the same session, therefore when making any changes I need to ensure that they are fully briefed on the amendments. There is also a requirement within any business environment to consider the direction of travel for the organisation as although the same subject matter can be delivered there are potentially various ways in which you can coach and advise managers to deal with the issue. It may be necessary to adapt your lesson plans to take into account the type of professionals that you are training and/or working for. In managing boundaries account must be taken of your professional role as the teacher and there may be issues which the students are facing which may be beyond your expertise. This could be where the student is having personal problems which although need to be addressed. Potentially this could jeopardise the professional relationship that you have established if you do not advise the student to gain support from other professionals to assist them. An example of this might be a learner asking about getting support with a health issue that might impinge on their employment. In this case I would normally suggest a referral to occupational health so that the issue can be dealt with under professional support. In this way professional integrity is maintained. If the boundary is not established there is the possibility that this could be seen as an opportunity with some students to gain advantage and request higher grades. The way to manage this is to be helpful in signposting the student but being aware that you do not have to actually provide the support yourself. In many cases you may not be best placed with the relevant skills to appropriately support the learner.

In summary the roles and responsibilities of a trainer are complicated due to the need to consider a range of peoples needs when preparing a session. Where these needs are given full consideration however there is a much improved benefit to the learners experience.

Stopping the Bullies in their tracks

Stopping the bullies in their tracks

What you can do to protect yourself at work

The information in this page is aimed at helping staff to deal with work place bullying and harassment in a constructive way.

How do I know I am being bullied?

If you feel:

· The working relationship feels different from any you have previously experienced

· There is a persistent feeling that you are being targeted

· Your work or behaviour is being criticised even though you feel that your standards have not slipped

· You are targeted for physical or verbal abuse of any description which you feel upset, threatened or intimidated by.

It is important to understand that anyone can be a target of bullying. There is no detriment to you as a person by admitting that this is going on. It is the bully who has a problem and not you. The important thing is to recognise what is happening and doing something about it.


‘You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there’

Edwin Louis Cole

Why me?

This could be for a number of reasons. People are usually selected by a bully because they feel threatened by their targets’ ability. It is commonly the case that a target is an above average performer, highly efficient and often better at what they do than the bully. Bullies can be line managers, peers, your own staff and clients.

By their nature bullies can feel entitled to special treatment, seek attention, lack empathy, are envious, exploitative and consummate liars. These characteristics lead them to behave in this anti-social way.

Other reasons for being targeted may include:

· Standing up for a colleague who is being bullied

· Being highly qualified or experienced

· Perceived inability to fight back

· Vulnerability

· Low assertiveness

· Whistle blowing

· Being perceived as different in any way


‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’

Eleanor Roosevelt

What can I do?

Before taking action through official channels, it is worth considering informal options.

Bullying at work very often affects more than one person. The more people who experience that same type of behaviour the less likely the complaint can be attributed to a personality clash on your part.

Check to see if any colleagues are experiencing the same treatment as you.


‘Courage is mastery of fear, not absence of fear’

Mark Twain


· Stand firm, remain confident and keep calm.

· If you feel it is possible, confront the bully and make it clear to them that their behaviour is not acceptable and that you want it to stop. You may prefer to have a trusted colleague or friend with you when you do this.

· Assert yourself by keeping a detailed record including times, dates, witnesses etc of every single encounter. This will provide sound evidence to confront the bully with at a later stage. The need for proof is essential.

· Where possible avoid situations where you are isolated with the bully. It is more difficult for them to use this type of behaviour when others are present.

· Discuss with a trusted colleague, friend or relative. Being able to talk about the issues you face will help you to feel less isolated and more able to cope.

· Consider whether this is a problem that can be handled informally or whether it requires use of the formal bullying and harassment procedure.

· If you feel the formal procedure is your only option, you should approach your line manager to discuss. If the bully is your line manager you should either speak to their manager directly or Human Resources.


‘Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be a victim. Accept no ones definition of your life; define yourself’

Harvey Fierstein

HR jobs aren’t easy to get

There is nothing more tricky that trying to establish yourself in a new profession. Even in HR there a several routes in to get the position you want but it is not easy. The difficulty in getting HR experience can be the foot in the door approach. Sometimes you may find you have to set your sights lower in the first stages just to get that confidence you need to instill in someone else to get the step up you require.

Like many HR people I started my career in recruitment which is a good a place to start as any and probably much easier to get an entry level job than some of the other specialties. It is also important not to neglect your education as you pursue your career. The CIPD or your equivalent HR professional organisation can be an excellent source of support and advice in planning how you might take the next steps educationally. Most entry level roles do not require CIPD registration however you will find that as you move up the career ladder this becomes more often than not an essential criteria.

If you are already in an entry level job and have been struggling to get the experience for generalist HR jobs or organisational development (whichever is your poison!) then see if you can speak to a colleague who works in that department. All industries are different but in general the person who shows they are interested in learning and development and continues to sell themselves to the organisation may well find opportunities coming their way. Take the opportunity to shadow colleagues or gain some work experience if it becomes available. On some occasions you may not feel that the job vacancy is exactly what you are looking for but it may be that you need to see this as a stop gap, it may well be the stepping stone you need for that dream job. Career paths should be fluid and progressive, so if it gives you access to the opportunity you need then go for it.

Competition can be fierce for the best jobs, but be resilient, continue to learn and the opportunity will present itself. Good luck with your careers!!

The 5 things HR do but shouldn’t

The 5 things HR do but shouldn’t

Too often do you find yourselves doing the things you said you would never do in your HR professional career

1. Running the meeting for the manager.

It is so easy sometimes when you are used to problem solving. You have probably done hundreds of these type of meetings and know how to deal with it. This might be the first time the manager has had to deal with this type of case. You undermine him/her in front of the member of staff and the employee respects and engages with you and not the manager

2. Making the decision

Find out the facts of the issues being raised, take into account recent employment legislation, your vast range of experience, and then instead of presenting the options to the manager, make the decision yourself and tell them what to do. Guess what’s going to happen next time there is a decision to be made?

3. Getting emotional?

Getting too involved with the client or manager and the member of staffs personal situation. Keeping a professional distance helps to manage the case logically and also maintain your personal resilience.

4. One rule for all?

Sometimes HR can be very good at explaining to others how to follow policies and procedures and then when it comes to managing ourselves, less so. Try not to get too wrapped up in considering every possible eventuality. Keep it simple and don’t tie yourself in knots.

5. We definitely need a policy for that!

HR guys are brilliant at writing new rules, going as far as to create a whole industry out of it. It is essential to have the rules clearly set out for your organisation but remember that you clients and managers are expected to read, understand and implement them all. Their time and your time is precious so make sure that your policies are fit for the business. The rules you use should be aimed at moving the organisation forward, not holding it back.

Hope these prove a useful reminder, keep checking back for more updates. I would love to hear our comments and thoughts!!