People Management: Coaching session

Q. I have problems with a senior member of staff. We have a review due and she wants to bring a volunteer 'friend'. Do I agree?

No. You have to make it clear that this is a normal supervisory review meeting. It is not part of the disciplinary process.

Under employment legislation, a member of staff is entitled to bring a friend or trade union representative to a disciplinary hearing - this is very sensible.

However, you will merely be conducting a review at which you, as her line manager, will discuss her performance. Such a review is a useful way of openly airing the issues concerning underperformance and what needs to be done to address this. But it is a matter solely for you as her boss.

I suspect this underperformance has been going on for some time. You have probably had previous review meetings at which you have pointed out difficulties and problems, but matters have not improved.

It does look as though things are getting serious if she is suggesting bringing along a volunteer to support her. This is highly inappropriate - you certainly don't want volunteers getting involved in what are staff management issues.

Of course, if performance continues to be a problem, then you will have to consider the disciplinary process. But that is a different process entirely, not part of a review.

Do remember that this is your meeting - a chance for you to review performance, set targets and measure progress. You are in charge of the process - don't be woolly.

In our sector, with its emphasis on teamwork and getting along, we sometimes get a little too cosy. Reviews are not informal chats between equals in which we swap problems and our staff tell us just how difficult everything is and how everything is the boss's fault.

I would suggest that you keep notes in a situation such as this. If it comes to a disciplinary hearing, you will want to show evidence of how you have raised concerns, offered support and monitored progress. Do not be afraid to move this forward to a disciplinary process if you need to. But remember to follow the rules - employment tribunals are anally retentive about process.

Finally, good luck.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send questions to stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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