My experience leads me fully to concur with the view that institutions must follow best practice in bullying and other personnel complaints (“When disputes arise, clarity and speed are vital for all parties”, Opinion, 17 July). Procedures are indeed established, but ignored. In one instance, we went through a return-to-work interview and paperwork for a member of the office staff who had taken sick leave because of a “disagreement” with a member of the academic staff. No one would acknowledge that the paperwork had been completed and passed up the line. She left shortly afterwards for a new position.
As for training, the union runs training seminars for its local officers in employment law, negotiation and dispute resolution. Unfortunately, it’s only in extremis that unions are invited to pursue personal cases.
HR has become nothing more than administration for recruitment and implementation of employer-side desiderata. It is simply a personnel function, rather than human resource management.
The points about best practice are all very sensible, but the elephant in the room is whether senior academics without any managerial achievements should be given these responsibilities in the first place. Why is there different practice for other managerial positions under the same roof? Why is it that in many universities senior academics manage administrative staff, many of whom are themselves experienced managers? The problems lie not just in underperformance or dispute resolution but also in recognising and rewarding good performance. The working environment can be so much improved if these fundamental issues/inequalities can be addressed.