Relationships and work

One of the unusual things about employment law is that it regulates a relationship that can be very personal. For example a good loyal member of staff may become a problem because they are not doing what you want them to do. Now this could be a performance issue, if they have moved to a new job for example. Or it could be the result of a previously good relationship breaking down. In these circumstances employment law is a lot more like family law than contract law. There are loads of reasons the relationship can go sour, sometimes it’s as small as forgetting to get this person an anniversary card even though you were an usher at their wedding, whilst at the same time remembering to ask a much shorter service member of staff how their son did on his first day at school.

Habits that you developed when dealing with someone as a receptionist may have a completely different meaning if they are the office manager. For example you may take a message and fill in the message book and the receptionist thinks you are just trying to save them some work. If you sort out a staff absence problem for a manager, you may be seen as undermining them. In both cases you may have been just trying to be helpful, but the results are quite different.

If you have a long standing member of staff who is just not coming up to scratch, it’s often worth finding out if, there are any underlying relationship issues before going down formal capability procedures. The formal route involves hearings and evidence and may just set everything in concrete, with the net result that you end up having to replace a perfectly good member of staff with a complete unknown. The point is that when family issues become difficult, applying the law usually means the position is irretrievable. This is often the case with employment relationships, once you go formal the die is cast.

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