The tax payer is about to pick up a mighty bill as the sorry saga of Sharon Shoesmith has ground its way through the courts.
Sharon Shoesmith’s story is just an extreme version of what goes on every day.
- Under resourced/overstretched team
- Impossible goals
- Something goes wrong
- Something must be done
- Someone must go
- Unfair Dismissal
This endless cycle (in small and large organisations) creates an outcry that unfair dismissal should be abolished or eliminated – another Something Must be Done. Shortening the cycle by removing one step is an attractive option but it does not really deal with the fundamental problem. So often we see organisations remove an individual for underperformance without making any changes to how the business/department is organised, managed, resourced, or run.
A few months or years later we are having the same conversation again about a new person! ‘Lessons have been learned’ often translated into ‘heads have rolled’ and that’s the end of that. The real cost to individuals, businesses and in this case the tax payer is very high.
Recruitment errors are not the same as supervision errors
We all recognise that sometime the wrong person is recruited and the only way to solve the problem is to get another person. But there are some fabulous opportunities to improve our own managerial processes and to learn from when things go wrong. One of the things we might decide to learn is that sometimes our goals are over ambitious in terms of our resources and we have to be realistic about what real people can achieve.
Frustration isn’t a plan
Reaching for excellence is a fabulous thing, but if you are frustrated by your team’s inability to reach it, then frustration can set in. So many of us just repeat what we did before (saying it LOUDER) and are surprised that we get the same results (only LOUDER). Then we snap and we want to get rid of the person we feel is to blame.
It’s human. It’s understandable. It doesn’t really get anyone to where they want to be. And it will trigger unfair dismissals.
There is a better way
It is possible to improve performance, but it takes time and thought and effort by the Boss. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by struggling with what is going wrong that we can’t even imagine finding the time and energy to create a better way to work. The whole problem can seem too big to tackle. The Boss ends up working till 3am to meet deadlines or redo sub standard work .
We see it all the time. With a bit of support, a bit of clarity and the right arrangements between boss and staff we can all avoid a mini-Shoesmith.
We just need to have the conversations and do the thinking. Employment law is just one of many reasons why you might not want to sack the person who seems to be to blame without going through any real process. There are better (and cheaper) ways to end your frustration than spending a large amount of your (or tax payer’s) money on unfair dismissal awards and legal fees.