WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

I have been saddled with a disgruntled assistant. How can I sack her?

Sack her - that's a bit extreme isn't it? In most careers we are going to find that we will have people working for us we might not have chosen ourselves. In these days of energetic employment legislation we need to be careful about moving headlong down the dismissal route.

That is not to say that dismissal may not be an appropriate way forward.

It is a final resort and a step you should only take when you are clear that the working relationship is detrimental to you and to the organisation.

However, you should not shy away from terminating the contract if there has been an irrevocable breakdown in relations. All too often in the voluntary sector we let people get away with quite appalling performance in their jobs because we are too frightened of moving people on.

Have you established clear objectives for her? Do you monitor these?

Do you discuss the problems with her in an open and frank way? Do you have regular supervision and appraisal sessions? At this point you are probably going to say: "I've got better things to do running the business without having to go through all this paraphernalia."

But in third sector organisations, where we operate in circumstances of limited resources and high ideals, we must be fair to our staff. For me this is not simply a question of adhering to employment legislation, but holding to values of respect and fairness.

Perhaps you should now do a 'cost-benefit analysis' on your assistant.

On one side of a sheet of paper put down all the points that count in her favour (and don't say there aren't any at all - there will be some), and then enumerate all the disadvantages. When you have done this, write down what steps you have taken to address the problem areas. If you can convince yourself that you have been fair and that there are no further steps to be taken to correct the situation, then there will have to be a parting of ways. But whatever else you do - don't do nothing. The relationship is not working and you need to take steps to ensure it does.

I suspect your assistant is none too happy with the current situation.

She will have guessed you are fed up, so I don't suppose she is either motivated or happy in the job. You may be able to agree a way forward together with you helping her get a new job. But do take further professional advice.

- Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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