We’re probably not going to get on with everyone in life but when that person is your employer, it doesn’t make the work environment a very pleasant place to be! Given that you’ll likely end up spending more time with your work team than your best friend, your partner, your dog, or your family, if a work relationship breaks down, it can make for a very stressful time. However much research you carry out beforehand on the organisation (Glassdoor, LinkedIn are great places to start) during the interview and right up until the negotiating of a contract, until you are actually sat at your desk working day-in day-out with your team, it’s really difficult to gauge what kind of rapport you might (or might not) strike up.
If, on a regular basis, you’re waking up in the morning and the last thing you feel like doing is stepping foot in your office, it might be time to come up with a plan of action on how best to tackle the problem. Given that relationship breakdown with a manager is the number one reason that people leave their job, it’s no surprise there’s a whole host of resources, hotlines, blogs, motivational Instagram quotes all advising you on what to do when the going gets tough. Remember though, each scenario is very different and should be treated as an individual case.
So we’ve come up with a number of ways you can alleviate and hopefully come up with the best possible solution to the situation:
Don’t bury your head in the sand
When something goes wrong, the easiest (and most common!) thing to do is to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. If you can approach your employer early on, there’s less time for feelings of anger, confusion and resentment to fester and there’s more chance of a positive reconciliation. Legally, too, the quicker you act, the better, before changes in your contract and working conditions become more permanent. So, practically, what might this look like?
Consider setting up a face-to-face meeting with your manager (via email so that correspondences can be tracked later down the line if necessary). Write down some notes beforehand so you arrive fully prepared and feel more confident in what can be understandably a nerve-wracking conversation. Have ready tangible examples of how you feel the relationship has broken down so that you can confront them with facts rather than an outpouring of emotions. Also, write down some desirable outcomes from a meeting – when you’re under pressure in the moment it can be easy to lose focus and forget what it is you want to achieve from your meeting! Finally, ensure you come up with a list of action points to come away with, both for your manager and yourself so that when you hopefully meet again you can measure how much the relationship has improved since your last meeting.
If that doesn’t work?
Sometimes, however much effort you put into trying to resolve a situation, for whatever the reason, it doesn’t always work out. You are then faced with a new conundrum of what to do next. In larger organisations there are often policies in place which will enable you to connect with an HR representative who might act as a mediator or at least inform you of your rights as an employee of the organisation. In smaller setups, especially startups, this might (not always!) prove more difficult, as roles are more fluid and there isn’t always an established HR function to contact. It might be that you have an appointed mentor or a line manager/other supervisor in whom you can confide, but if not, it might be worth looking at external support resources rather than searching internally for something that isn’t right.
The good news is that when problems do arise, there are plenty of options available to you so that you can feel fully supported and in control of your situation. Careers consultants are also on hand to speak to you about your work-related enquiry and possible next steps should you require additional assistance to see you through to the other side.
N.B. these are resources for UK related employment and won’t necessarily apply to employment issues in other countries.
CAB: Perhaps the most comprehensive (and up to date) resource is on the Citizens Advice Bureau website. As a starter, there is a page that takes you through the various options that are available to you and very easy to read.
ACAS: Amongst other areas, ACAS focuses on how to manage a conflict at work and has a useful advisory booklet for both employers and employees. They also have a helpline number offering impartial advice: 0300 123 1100 (Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-1pm)
LRA: The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment issues.
UK Government website: Gov.uk provides extensive information including pages on employee rights, changes to contracts, and how to access employment tribunals should a matter deteriorate considerably.
Law Centres: These centres are funded by local councils and the Legal Services Commission and offer free legal advice and representation.
EASS: The EASS helpline is for people who think they may have experienced discrimination at work. It offers advice on what the law says and how it applies to you, supporting you to resolve issues informally, as well as working out if you are eligible for legal aid. Telephone: 0808 800 0082 (Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm).
Trade Unions: If you are part of a trade union or your organisation has a trade union representative you can contact them either through your local branch or through your workplace. The Work Smart website details how a trade union can support you and how to access one.