The “must ask” appraisal question

There is one question that, when asked, can improve productivity and protect employers from almost all spurious Tribunal claims.

Employees are often reluctant to share troubles at work for a variety of reasons. One reason is fear of prejudice. But, employees may fear that they won’t be taken seriously or simply that mentioning difficulties will make matters worse.

As a result you may have dysfunctional work-teams, poor quality, high staff turnover, high absence levels, low productivity and reduced profit.

Furthermore, down the line, this reluctance on the part of employees, can lead to claims for disability discrimination, whistleblowing to outside parties and constructive dismissal claims. You will appreciate that these outcomes are very bad news.

So the question is simple: “is there anything that is making work-life difficult for you?” The question has to be asked genuinely. The employee has to feel that they will be treated fairly, and safely, if they divulge concerns.

Naturally there is a risk that complicated and challenging matters could be uncovered. But clearly it is wiser to be handling known difficulties than to be ignoring their existence. Defending a case where you didn’t know something was going on, or explaining that you had ignored stress, or ignored a disability, is likely to prove quite challenging.

However, what is more likely is that the question will alert you to things that you can do something about. It should give you the opportunity to put an end to anything that might otherwise develop into a major problem.

The ideal answer to the question, of course, is “nothing at all, thank you for asking”.

Whatever the response you get, in a litigious world, make a note that you asked the question.

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