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Our Top HR Tips for Surviving the Silly Season

Tis the Silly Season where silly things can happen and do happen!

Summer holidays are so close but we still have two weeks to go … unless you are secondary school teachers ?

This is the time of year where frustrations can boil over in the workplace and those who have had a hard year, not enough time off, or simply have pressures to complete work before 24 December, can make some bad calls.

Here are our top HR tips for surviving the silly season when dealing with a difficult situation or a process that doesn’t seem to have an end.

1. Stick to, and have trust in the process. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel.

Performance management, restructures and disciplinary processes are not nice for either party. These processes can be emotionally charged, sensitive and downright tedious. 

Employers who are used to being the decision makers are confined to the process and being patient when they just want to see the problem fixed and a solution in place.  Employees can find themselves backed into a corner trying to fight their way out. 

An ongoing recruitment processes with no preferred candidates can also be heart-breaking if the work keeps piling up, and there no-one to share the load. 

Rushing the process or cutting corners when dealing with employment matters usually means you are limiting your options and creating more risk later on in the process. 

A client recently reflected on his experience with hiring people.  He said:

“When we stuck to our process we got a good person.  When we didn’t stick to the process, it usually back-fired.”

Ultimately the process is your insurance policy. 

When properly implemented and executed in a fair manner where both parties acknowledge their responsibilities, provide sound feedback and take action on these, it can reap positive outcomes.  Change doesn’t happen overnight but it can happen when both parties are willing to make the mutual investment in a positive outcome.

Starting a process at this time of year – whether it be a restructure, disciplinary or performance management – can have heightened emotions for a range of reasons.  If it’s serious misconduct or possible redundancy, the chances of the employee finding other employment can be slim until after the Christmas break.  The financial consequences may push them to desperation and make the situation worse.  While employers are just trying to hang in there until the holiday. 

Knee jerk reactions, poor decisions under pressure and saying things that shouldn’t be said may be common. 

If things boil over and compromise the process, don’t worry, you still have other options.

2. Take a break and leave it until the New Year to take a fresh look at things.

If it’s a performance management or restructure process that hasn’t long started, it could be best that the pressure comes off a little so each party can breath and unwind leading into the break. 

We are not saying stop documenting and monitoring performance.  Instead save the courageous conversation or any important decisions for after the break. 

Would you want to make a decision then go on holiday for 2-3 weeks only for the employee to brew on it over that time? It is a recipe for disaster.  

If you don’t have a process happening and things are just generally uncomfortable or strained, or if an employee has made a serious mistake, do some initial investigation to find out more information before taking action. 

Pause.  Consider your options.  For some problems, a courageous conversation may be just want the employee needs.  It just could be the silly season is getting to them and their behaviour is a symptom or a coping strategy when under pressure.  Or you may need to apologise for your actions and share with the employee concerned what is influencing your behaviour. A problem shared is a problem halved.

But what if it’s serious?

For serious breaches or misconduct, it is best that you take action swiftly at this time of year.  We wouldn’t recommend pausing for long.  Taking action may mean sacrificing other priorities and using the time available to deal with the situation at hand.   Or you may need to simply pay the $$ to get someone in to sort it so you can focus on the work. 

For serious issues, our advice is to get as much done as possible without compromising yourself, the quality of the investigation and being another victim of the silly season.  So if that means reaching out for help and a HR side-kick then give us a call.  If we can’t help we know great people that can.

3. Mediation. Talk it out and agree on a resolution for 2020.

We continue to be surprised by the lack of awareness around Mediation Services and that the assumption is that it costs money to use them.  Mind you we work with some clients who have an average length of service of 10yrs+.  So no wonder!

Here is a rundown of what it mediation is all about …

It is a free service provided by MBIE for employers and employees to meet, discuss the problem in a confidential without prejudice format, with the purpose to reach a resolution.

This is a great service should either party feel like they are in a no-win situation and trying to resolve it themselves is not going anywhere or is compromising the employment relationship.  This is particularly useful when the employment relationship has hit the rocks and unlikely to recover without external intervention. 

While recommended, you don’t have to have lawyers or support people involved if you are confident doing it yourself.  The Mediator guides you through the process.  The sole purpose of the mediator is to assist with bringing about a solution.  They are not there to play sides.

Mediation support doesn’t have to be a meeting, it could be over the phone.  Once the solution is agreed by the parties, it is recorded in a record of settlement.  This document is a legally binding document. 

To find out more about mediation services and the role of the mediator check out MBIE’s employment website for more info – https://www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/mediation/what-is-mediation/

Got a problem with the more than one person?  Feeling like the team generally don’t like you? 

There are people out there that are professional mediators.  These professionals specialise in resolving problems and these aren’t necessarily employment problems either.  

We assist in resolving team situations by assessing what the core issues are through discussions with the people concerned in a confidential 1 on 1 format. This all before we extend our investigation further or propose any solutions.  

Often when a team is being difficult, the repeated behaviours and actions of others are the symptoms of a core issue, so we have to investigate before providing a diagnosis.  Our treatment plan, or team culture rebuild plan is usually multi-dimensional as there will be team things to work on, and then individual things to work on. 

When it comes to teams, there is no single silver bullet solution that will fix everything.  It will take a series of things over a period to resolve and everyone has to be in it for the long haul. 

If you are feeling like your petrol tank is running low, you are on the edge and wanting to jump but you can’t, you still have two weeks of slog to go. 

Please make the most of your downtime when you can.  6 minutes of giving your brain a rest and staring into nowhere, can work wonders. 

And know that when faced with an unexpected issue that is serious, you always have options and choices.  There is no such thing as “I had no choice but to …”. Pause before you fall victim to the silly season.