Every workplace has ducks – that is, people that nothing sticks to

Photo of square post-its being placed neatly on table. Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash.

Employment law

“The guy is like a duck, all of the water rolls off him and nothing sticks to him.” This is how the CEO described the company’s service manager. This kind of persons exist in every workplace and among all professions and positions.

The CEO and I went through the deficiencies in the manager’s performance in more detail. In short, there were a lot of shortcomings and failures. So many in fact that it is not appropriate to even begin to list them here. If all of these shortcomings had become apparent at the same time, the employer could have had a dismissal situation on their hands. After all, this was a person in a managerial position, which carried higher expectations than that of a regular worker. In addition, the failures of the manger had caused financial damage to the employer as well as loss of customers. On the other hand, it had to also be taken into account that the manger was not part of the top management of the company, but the so-called middle management.

The problem in this situation was mainly the fact that the manager’s failures and shortcomings at work had not arisen suddenly. In fact, the manager had done his work poorly for several years and his actions had constantly caused damage to the employer. The matter had been discussed with him and he had been encouraged to change his behaviour, but no change for the better had happened. The employer had no evidence of these discussions, only a report made by the manager’s superior. The manager had even been given a written warning about these failures.

However, from an employment law perspective, the employer did not have grounds for dismissal in this situation. Why not? The employer had certainly pursued all constructive ways to resolve the situation, but the matter had not been dealt with systematically enough. The written warning given to the manger had in fact expired. In such situations, letting time pass and turning a blind eye to failures backfires on the employer. If the manager’s repeated failures had been addressed within a year after the written warning had been issued, the employer would have had legal grounds to dismiss the manger.

Now we are back to square one. The employer is still employing a manager who is underperforming in his work duties. The manager has now recently been given a new written warning. The employer has received instructions on how to clearly set goals for the manger and how to monitor their progress. It remains to be seen whether:

  1. the guy remains a duck that nothing has any effect on, in which case he will be dismissed, or

  2. the duck changes into something else not made from Teflon, in which case his employment may still continue, or

  3. the duck stars laying golden eggs, in which case his work starts to flourish

Optimistically, I hope that the manager gets his act together. Unfortunately, the realities of life predict a different outcome.