Did I Say That Out Loud?

I think we have all had those moments where we wish we could speak our minds about colleagues, employers/employees and sometimes even clients. But most people recognise that this would be inappropriate, or at the very least you value your job enough not to open your mouth. Unsurprisingly, if you are rude or uncommunicative your employer may be entitled to investigate any incidents and try to improve your performance. Depending on the nature of the incident, it could amount to serious misconduct.

In a recent Employment Relations Authority decision the employee, Ms T, was a level 3 support worker for a charity that provides support to vulnerable, intellectually disabled people. Ms X was one of the people who Ms T worked with.

Your painting sucks

Ms X made a complaint that Ms T had said something which upset her. Specifically, the complaint said “I painted a picture for my mum’s birthday. [Ms T] said to me - that’s awful, Madison (her 5 year old granddaughter) could do better than that”.

An explanation was requested from Ms T, and she was informed that if her explanation did not resolve the issue the charity would have to conduct a full investigation, which could lead to dismissal due to the seriousness of the allegation.

Performance Improvement Plan

Ms T denied making the comment contained in the complaint. Given there were two conflicting versions of events, the charity had to investigate further. While the charity decided that no further disciplinary action was necessary, they had concerns about Ms T’s communication skills. According to other staff, Ms T was often perceived as disrespectful, gruff and overpowering.

Based on this feedback, Ms T was placed on a performance improvement plan to build her communication skills and improve her professional relationships with the people she worked with.

But I don’t need improving!

Anyone would think that this seems like a positive outcome for all involved. Guess again. Ms T then raised a personal grievance for unjustified disadvantage based on the manner the investigation against her was carried out, and because she was placed on an improvement plan.

The Authority found that the investigation was fair and reasonable. Additionally, the Authority noted there was no disciplinary action taken against Ms T and in fact she had even admitted that she needed to improve her communication style.

Ms T was not unjustifiably disadvantaged in any way, and therefore was not entitled to any remedies. Personally, I don’t think it’s appropriate in any context to tell someone else that something they have worked on is “awful”, but that might just be me. And apologies for being Captain Obvious, but if you do have a tendency to speak bluntly, or perhaps even have a strange sense of humour, maybe it’s not the best idea to seek a career in caring for intellectually disabled people.