UK: Mister Meanor - When to pass on the dead wood.

UK: Mister Meanor - When to pass on the dead wood. - Mister Meanor gives advice on getting rid of an unwanted employee and how best to handle inappropriate overtures from a business client.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Mister Meanor gives advice on getting rid of an unwanted employee and how best to handle inappropriate overtures from a business client.

Dear Mister Meanor

Most of my employees are first rate, but the exception is both lazy and incompetent. I have been subtly encouraging him to leave for some years, until now with no success. A few days ago I received a call from the MD of another company asking for a reference on said employee. I would be delighted to offload him but the company in question is an important client.

While I am desperate to be rid of my hapless hanger-on, I don't want to endanger a key business relationship. What should I do?

In a mess of Inverness

Dear In a mess

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with stretching the truth in references - we all know that a glowing testimonial is often a sign of desperation rather than delight with a potential new recruit. Usually it is up to the new employer to weed out shoddy candidates at interview. But this situation is different. Dumping duffers on strangers is understandable, delivering faulty goods to a client is both unacceptable and short-sighted.

You must be candid with the managing director, but you must also be careful.

To avoid a litigious paper trail, call the client personally and tell him the truth. If he ignores your advice and takes the man on anyway, you win on both fronts - you are free of guilt and your employee. If, however, he heeds your advice, then you at least get brownie points for honesty. In any case, if the employee really is that bad it's up to you to deal with it and 'cut him loose'.

Yours with due reference

Mister Meanor

Dear Mister Meanor,

I am a female senior account manager at a London-based advertising agency.

On a recent business trip an important but inebriated client made a crass and obvious pass at me. As I have been on trips with this client before without incident, I was prepared to let the matter drop. However, in our subsequent meetings he has been openly hostile towards me. My boss now wants me to go on another trip with the same client. My presence is key to our retaining the account and I am reluctant to lose business for my agency but I feel awkward and uncomfortable about my client's intentions. How should I proceed?

Turned off of Turnham Green

Dear Turned off

It's a pity you aren't both Americans. If you were, it would be a simple matter of a six-figure settlement and the man never showing his face on Madison Avenue again. Sexual harassment in the workplace is treated increasingly seriously in this country, but the suggestion of a stiff upper lip is still all too frequently the only remedy on offer.

Firstly, you should tackle your client directly. Tell him that although his behaviour was silly and regrettable, you're prepared to forgive and forget. If this fails, have a word with your boss. Explain that you don't want to be taken off the account but would appreciate a discreet word in relevant and receptive ears. Any modern boss should appreciate your plight, but if your superior still thinks that political correctness means voting for the right party, you must explain clearly that you will only go on the trip if you and your amorous client are put in separate hotels. If the self-styled stud objects, it is up to your company, not you, to tell him why.

Yours objectively

Mister Meanor.

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