Learn from medical malpractice to steer clear of Employment Tribunals
I read recently that there is an enormous backlog in claims being handled by the Employment Tribunal service, due to the fact that claims have quadrupled in the last four years. In this blog I would like to look at the medical profession and explore how research in that context may help employers reduce the likelihood of ending up in a Tribunal hearing.
Employment Tribunals, whether an employer ‘wins’ or not, are a drain of time, energy and resources. There is also the potential for financial and reputational loss.
Staff from one company told me that management at their place of work were often frightened to initiate disciplinary procedures against under-performing staff due to fear that they may provoke an Employment Tribunal claim. It seems that a number of large companies to whom they tender for business ask, as part of the tendering process, how many Tribunal cases they have had to defend in the last ‘X’ number of years. This, apparently, is used as a Litmus Test by the commissioning organisations to establish how good an employer their potential partners are!
It might be helpful for companies such as this to realise, however, that people don’t just litigate as a knee-jerk reaction when they feel aggrieved. Research into compensation claims for medical malpractice in the United States provided a fascinating insight into this area of human decision-making. The study looked at a large number of medical malpractice claims and found that the main factor determining whether someone sued a doctor or hospital was not the degree of medical incompetence, but was rather the behaviour of the medical staff when challenged.
Doctors who admitted their error and demonstrated humility, respect and remorse were far less likely to be sued than those who were dismissive, defensive or refused to acknowledge the patient’s experience – even if the actual medical damage was the same in both cases. The decision to litigate was less to do with revenge or looking for a ‘pay-day’ and more to do with seeking acknowledgment of wrong and a degree of accountability.
If we extrapolate that finding to the employment field we could reasonably speculate that a good way for a company to reduce the risk of Employment Tribunals is not only to have sound HR practices, but also to have management who are trained in the ‘soft skills’ to work with staff in a fair and respectful manner, even when having to engage in the less enjoyable aspects of people management.
At Watt Works we offer many training courses in the areas of soft skills, such as Conflict Resolution and Dealing with Difficult People, both in-house and at a number of venues throughout the UK.
Let us help you help your people develop the skills to create a workplace characterised by cooperation, respect and mutual benefit and avoid the pitfalls of unnecessary litigation.