This week, I was kindly given the opportunity of reading witness statements from a textbook case of constructive dismissal.
The situation couldn’t be clearer. An ‘independent’ outside assessor was brought into a company to get employee feedback. They made it clear to the employees that answers would be confidential and asked questions like: ‘If you could change one thing about this firm, what would it be?’
If you been bullied or you’ve ever come a cropper with your employer, you’ll wince at the above. You know what’s going to happen next. But if you’ve never had such a problem, there’s every chance you’d be flattered. To be asked for your opinion on ways the company can improve sounds a lot like inclusion and respect.
The reality, as we know, is that if you have any great ideas – you’re in trouble. They’ll suspect you’re second guessing management decisions. Even worse, you might be planning to set up a rival firm after poaching their clients. I wonder whether the majority these one-to-one meetings which claim to be off the record are out to reveal exactly this.
In this particular witness statement, when the former employee was challenged openly by his boss about his answers he said thought his responses were confidential. He was told: ‘The assessor works for me and while I pay him, he tells me everything’.
I do wonder what the company agenda was in conducting these interviews. We’ll never know. But it certainly wasn’t to listen to their employees and improve productivity. The only time, it seems, when you can safely appear to care about the firm you work for is during the initial job interview.
And they wonder why the British economy remains sluggish.