Unfair dismissal v Performance Management – media take heed!

Not many things in life bother me, life’s too short. But persistent, poor media reporting and unfounded sensationalism does.

This year, we’ve seen the media sensationalise the riots, compelling every ‘yoof’ with no direction in life to jump on the bandwagon. Then we saw them chastise the England rugby team (fair enough, if you’ve just married the Queen’s grandaughter – you probably ought not to stick one’s head into another woman’s cleavage) but in my view, the whole story was blown out of complete proportion. I would’ve preferred to understand why Johnno was still messing around with the squad three games into the tournament. And that brings me to today…..unfounded, ill informed reporting on the subject of unfair dismissal. And before I launch into why, on this occasion, I am well placed to comment (given my professional background and endless support I have offered to my broad range of loyal clients in managing issues of underperformance and developing managers to do so themselves) let me just climb onto my soapbox.

Let’s get one thing straight. Generally speaking an unfair dismissal case is rarely simple and clear cut and in the large majority of cases, there’s often a link to discrimination. For example, ‘I wasn’t dismissed for reason of redundnacy, it was because I’m in a wheelchair’. Or, ‘I wasn’t dismissed for misconduct but becuase I’m the only girl in the team and I refused to hang out in Spearmint Rhinos with the lads’. Trite, but illustrates my point – unfair dimsissal claims often have a link to discrimination – which any employee can make a claim against the minute they start with an employer. (Well technically, from the minute they apply for a job with a potential employer). That right’s not going to change. So will we see a decrease in the number of tribunal claims as a result of the two year threshold before which any employee can make an unfair dismissal claim…….? Unlikely, in my humble opinion.

Then the other debate raging is the proposal to remove the right to claim unfair dismissal altogether so that underperforming workers can be sacked with the pointy finger and the ‘you’re fired’ statement, Alan Sugar style. Whilst I’m a huge fan of Lord Sugar, this suggestion is ludicrous! There needs to be some sort of employment framework to which all parties – employer and employee alike, sign up to. And the emphasis ought not to be on whether there’s a right to claim unfair dismissal or not, but on encouraging sensible performance management techniques that reward the best and penalise the loafers. And, if that means dismissal because someone’s incapable of doing their job despite an adequate level of support, then so be it. (Yes people, sometimes life deals you a bum card!). I’ve succesfully implemented clear, transparent performance management schemes into organisations, which are simple  and pragmatic to administer. Provided expectations are clear, there’s no reason why shining stars can’t be identified in the first few months of employment and nurtured from there on in. And for those free-riding loafers, at whatever stage they might be in their career with the company, the cards are clear. I’ve experienced public sector first hand and yes, their performance management frameworks are almost non existent and in my view far too paternalistic. And for the privately owned SME (again, many of which I’ve worked with directly) where no-one can hide and the finances simply can’t afford to carry anyone, then pragmatic performance management techniques achieve the end goal. I could go on but I simply wanted to offer some context that the media have failed to acknowledge. It’s not rocket science – quite the opposite. Set clear, objective expectations and if the employee can’t make the grade, provided matters are handled sensibly and with dignity, free from unfair discrimination, free loaders will be a thing of the past.

Thanks for reading, it’s been a pleasure and do feel free to comment. I’m just off to pack the soap box away.