I have a problem with my HR director, who is a perfect nightmare. I inherited her from my predecessor and find she is not only lazy and incompetent but has alienated her team and her (talented) number two has just quit. She takes an inordinate amount of sick leave, claiming that the job is “stressful”. Clearly I need to get rid of her but she knows the rule book inside out and has a litigious frame of mind. She is from an ethnic minority and, though born to middle-class Indian parents, appears to believe that life has discriminated against her. She views me, a white male, as a personal affront. What do I do?
Chief executive, male, 51
You must decide if you want to spend management time sorting this out or whether to lavish money on it instead.
In the first case, you need to manage her downfall actively, setting clear performance targets and monitoring her failure to meet them. Then, when you finally fire her, she won’t be able to claim unfair dismissal.
There are three problems with this approach: you will have to put up with her laziness and incompetence for quite a while longer; it will eat up a lot of your time; and – worst – she might well end up suing you anyway on discrimination grounds.
If you are in the UK, the law makes the employer guilty until proven innocent: the onus is on you to prove that you did not discriminate against her. This can be quite tricky, especially if most of your senior people are white males and if you have not insisted on everyone attending diversity awareness courses.
You can risk it, but you need to think not just of the cost but of how bad the newspaper headlines might look.
If I were you I would deal with the problem quietly by throwing money at it now. It does not sound as if she is enjoying the job much at present. It is either making her ill or making her skive, neither of which are good. Her new boss is unsympathetic and possibly sexist and racist and seems to have it in for her. Her team are awful and her number two has just quit.
Call a meeting with her and offer her a fortune to go.
If for some bizarre reason she turns this down there is always the special projects option. Pay her to do a hugely grand-sounding yet utterly peripheral job where she has no one reporting to her. And then tempt the brilliant number two back into the number one slot.