The People Manager

The Diary of an HR Manager 2

It was a beautiful, sunny weekend and I wanted to spend quality time with my family, so my phone was on silent mode. Later that day, I checked my phone and saw that I had missed 20 calls! One of the calls was from my CEO. “Emmanuel, you can’t imagine the email I got today” he exclaimed after I returned the call! “Let’s see immediately you get into the office on Monday to review the situation.” 

The next working day, I arrived at the office and got set for the meeting. An employee who felt that he was not treated well had complained bitterly and made several unsubstantiated allegations against the HR department. The complaint focused on this employee’s performance rating, resultant bonus pay and generally not being liked by people at the HR department. The employee also made snide comments about the CEO not taking previous complaint seriously because of the feeling that he was an ordinary employee with no stake in the business. 

This complaint was forwarded to the company’s group CEO and board members who are not involved in the day-to-day operation of the company! This the employee did against the advice of the CEO, who implored the said employee to liaise with HR to seek clarification on his performance appraisals concerns and revert. 

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On reviewing this “malicious” complaint, the natural thing for one to do would have been to get angry with the employee, and possibly use a sledgehammer to kill this little fly trying to create a storm in a teacup! However, we chose to handle the situation differently; you never can tell whether an employee is delusional and/or suffering from some mental issues, and this behaviour was not rational.

I immediately set up a meeting to enable the employee to shed more light on the several allegations detailed in the complaint letter. The tone of the atmosphere was defined for the employee; the essence of the meeting was not to witch-hunt, punish or sanction, rather it was to help us to understand the issues raised in the complaint and also clarify, as well as, provide additional information where necessary. 

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On performance rating, the employee stated that the HR team downgraded his rating. We asked the same employee if he had reached out to their line manager to find out why his rating was downgraded, and he answered in the negative. I called for the appraisal forms and the Line Manager. It was discovered that the final rating was not altered on the appraisal form which was acknowledged by the employee. Secondly, the line manager acknowledged that the final rating was correct as originally entered on the appraisal form. Although the line manager had agreed with the employee on what the final rating would be, a decision was later reached to revise the ratings after reviewing the department’s overall appraisal. 

It was established that HR had nothing to do with this. On the performance bonus, the employee was asked if he had taken time to study the circulated modalities, which detailed how the pay was arrived at; the response was also in the negative. I then took the time to explain the modalities, this time asking for confirmation of understanding before moving from one stage to the other culminating in how the computation of the performance bonus was arrived at. The employee understood and discovered that his performance bonus was indeed calculated correctly. At the end of the meeting, it was crystal clear that the employee was under a wrong impression as everything alleged turned out to be false.

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Two things were clear from this experience. One, most employees do not read documents circulated via email, they would rather rely on what their peers tell them and believe the same to be true. Secondly, there is the need to reemphasize how to channel grievances, ensuring that all internal processes are exhausted before escalating them through the whistle-blowing. 

A campaign to create awareness around the performance framework and grievance procedures was once again introduced and is refreshed regularly throughout the year.

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