George works at a regional removals company. He has reportedly persistently under-performed since he joined the company, but had been promoted way above his level of competence over many years by his previous manager.
The company often makes a loss on jobs that George costs, but performance management processes were not put in place by his previous manager. Hannah, his new manager, has come to the end of her tether after some serious costing mistakes by George, two customer complaints, a period of sickness absence and the need for efficiency in the harsher economic conditions. There have been some discussions between colleagues that George previously said that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago, but more recently had mentioned that he has chronic fatigue syndrome.
As a first step to addressing the issues Hannah has identified, the HR officer has obtained an occupational health report that indicates George cannot manage the staff he has under him, but is inconclusive as to his exact condition and whether George needs a change of management or can continue to undertake a customer-facing role.
- Performance management was not in place.
- Possible health conditions have not been properly explored.
The solution here is simple. A manager needs to talk to George and explain the situation. Clearly, George is under-performing, leading to errors and complaints which are costing the company, so this needs to be addressed instead of avoided. During this conversation, George’s health should be discussed. The manager needs to be able to say to George that his performance is unacceptable, but that they are worried that there is an undisclosed health condition which is having an impact.
The manager needs to make it clear that unless the company knows what health condition George has, they cannot take steps to support him. If George maintains that he does not have a health issue then he must be dealt with as any other employee who is under-performing. Rumours among colleagues do not substantiate George having bipolar disorder, but this should be explored with George and then supporting medical information can be sought as required and with his permission.
Ultimately, George is the expert on his health needs – when the reality of the situation is explained to him and an offer of support is made by the company, then the solution should become clear.