December 20, 2013

Hot tub anyone?

Hot tubing…it may sound like a ridiculous concept but it’s something that Civil Courts use all the time.

A Judge gets two or more experts that are involved in a case round a table – or in front of the bench – to put their opinions forward. That way, the Judge is aware of the agreed (or not) issues, avoiding lengthy protected hearings or correspondence.

So what is the relevance of this concept to HR and Employment Law? Well, actually, it’s something that many firms have adopted for years – with good effect in relation to staff grievances.

We all know that we have to deal with work place tensions – most of the time, over ridiculous things. For instance, you have ‘A’ complain about ‘B’ as to the inconsiderate nature of them not loading up the printer with paper or perhaps ‘B’ hogs all the cups/mugs in the office.

You’ll then find that ‘B’ may have a gripe about ‘A’ being petty minded or ‘difficult’ and it then their squabble snow balls and the friction starts to affect everyone within the work place.

One way to diffuse the situation and avoid lengthy grievances and counter grievances and interviewing people and taking statements and listening to appeals is to ‘Hot tub’ them.

‘Hot tubing’ is when you invite them to an informal meeting. Tell them the ground rules of the meeting i.e. that it will be informal and the reason for the meeting. You will then each give them a pitch of say between 10-20 minutes (You control the length of the pitch).

The other party cannot interfere during the pitch but they may take notes. The person conducting the meeting tells each party what the issues are, whether one party accepts what is being said or how that person felt, and how their actions could be interrupted.

Employees actually feel better once they’ve ‘pitched’ their complaint as they feel as though they’ve been listened to. Interestingly, having the other party there, in a controlled meeting, gives them time to reflect how their actions may be viewed by others. There are times when an employee is genuinely unaware of how their behaviour affects others.

‘Hot tubing’ is a simple method of avoiding work place tensions spiralling out of control. ‘Hot tubing’ is not suitable for grievances or complaints for any type of discrimination, harassments or bullying and that the formal procedures must always be adopted.

It is, however, a simple and effective way of dealing with those office squabbles that if left unresolved can result in grievances, suspensions and dismissals!

So next time you hear employees arguing over the photocopier or disagreements over whose eaten the Advent Calendar chocolate get them in the ‘hot tub’ and turn down the heat!

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