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Managing resentment in the office as more businesses reopen

Kate Palmer, Associate Director of HR Advisory at Peninsula

As businesses start to reopen, employers must keep on the lookout for issues that could arise among staff. For example, some may be bitter that they worked throughout the pandemic while others were furloughed, which they could view as staff being given a free holiday. Others still could take issue with having to stay in the workplace while other staff have been able to work from home.

The first thing employers should do is remind everyone in the workplace of what amounts to acceptable conduct. This has been a hard time for everyone, regardless of whether they had to stay at work or not, and employees should be encouraged to be more understanding of this. If there are instances of misbehaviour of this nature, disciplinary action should be considered if necessary. Anyone who comes forward should have their concerns listened to; failure in this regard could lead to employees becoming very disillusioned in their role.

While some issues may require a formal response, such as an investigation and disciplinary procedure, it may be that disputes between employees can be resolved informally. Staff could be asked to put forward their issues and allowed to discuss them in a controlled environment. However, this will depend on the facts; serious accusations, such as bullying or discrimination, should always be dealt with formally.

As we head into the next few months, a degree of uncertainty remains surrounding the pandemic, and staff may respond to this in different ways. To this end, they should be encouraged to use the company’s Employee Assistance Programme, if it provides one, to discuss any personal or professional issues they may be having. This could help to dissuade them from taking their concerns out on each other.

Employers must also make sure they are not favouring employees for certain things, such as the ability to work flexibly going forward regardless of whether they have been on furlough or worked throughout the pandemic. Such an action could lead to accusations of favouritism, have a significant impact on employee morale and, potentially, lead to them seeking alternative employment.

Kate Palmer, Associate Director of HR Advisory at Peninsula

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