Acas launch guide to help HR professionals handle sensitive issues… Acas, the leading workplace relations organisation, have launched a new campaign aimed at helping HR managers to deal with the sensitive conversations that often pop up in the workplace.
HR professionals are trained to be able to communicate with employees about potentially emotive topics like performance, conduct and personal life but it remains a difficult skill to master. Furthermore if these kind of emotive issues are handled badly then it can affect morale within a workplace and damage dynamics within a team and have a knock-on effect on the performance and attendance of other workers – indeed sometimes these kind of discussions have been dealt with so unprofessionally that other team members have resigned in protest at the treatment their colleague received.
A recent study by CEDR discovered that 63% of managers and employees felt that their organisation was not sufficiently prepared to handle sensitive issues with the care and tact required. Acas themselves have said that in their experience no matter how insignificant the issue may appear to be at first glance, that if an employee is not treated with the necessary dignity and respect then the situation can be made much much worse very quickly.
Senior Guidance Editor at Acas Adrian Wakeling commented:
“Many line managers go into difficult conversations with very good intentions, but often make the mistake of prolonging or intensifying the problem, rather than restricting or resolving it.
“Knowing when to expand a conversation – by seeking clarification and gaining understanding – and when to restrict it – in terms of deciding what happens next – can often only be learned through experience or the right training.”
Acas divide their guidance into having these difficult conversations into four sections; set the right tone, state the issues and give evidence, ask for an explanation and agree a way forward. Being able to identify these sensitive issues is of course the key first step and it can be problematic to intervene when stress or bullying are observed. It is recommended that companies have a detailed disciplinary policy in place and that all employees are made aware of expected standards of behaviour in the workplace.