Feb 27 2018| Values | Human Data

The Question of Integrity

The importance of Integrity to Employment Tribunals

by Peter Woodward Associate

Peter Woodward’s experience as chair of Employment Tribunals leads him to ask the question: does your organisational culture foster high integrity?

Having chaired Employment Tribunals in Guernsey for over 17 years, and spent ten years as a panel member with the Jersey Employment Tribunal Service, I have found there is one universal truth with these proceedings:

The integrity of either an individual or an organisation, or both, will be brought into question. 

When it comes to issuing judgements, we use relatively restrained language in describing the issues at play, often referring to a witness as being somewhat evasive. We may have picked up on certain behaviours such as: 

  • A witness being non-committal;
  • A witness having perceived lapses in memory.

Of course, we do like to believe that everybody is telling the truth on oath but, on occasion, cynicism can creep in.

 

Balance of Probabilities 

Possibly one of the most damning factors of the Tribunal process is that the evidence of other witnesses is paramount. It is important to understand that by this point it is likely that we have formed the view that an individual, or a number of individuals from an organisation, have chosen to tell us falsehoods.

Sometimes it is apparent that one party has chosen to blacken the name of the other party with little consideration of the facts.

When giving such evidence, the party should consider the repercussions that providing falsehoods under oath in a small community such as ours can have, for example:

  1. Everybody has easy online access to the judgements, so they will become public knowledge;
  2. Colleagues of the witness may know the truth;
  3. Colleagues may question the integrity of the witness in relation to other work matters, knowing they have lied under oath. 

As Mark Twain wisely said, ‘If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.’ 

Simply put, if you have told a lie then you have to remember what lie you told and to whom!

 

Mechanical Box Checking is Not Enough

Of course, sometimes the employer has every reason to dismiss an employee and has made every attempt to do it fairly. We should have every confidence that they have told the truth to the Tribunal. However, even with such employers, there can be issues that go to the root of leadership integrity.

Case and point, ten years ago a finance case was brought to our attention where the employee had not been following the regulatory requirements of their role and was dismissed.

At this point, I must add that the employer seemed to have been duly and promptly reported to the appropriate regulator, and they claimed to have followed procedure so thought the dismissal was fair.

A junior manager gave evidence for the company, claiming the employee in question had not followed KYC procedure.

I was sitting as a side member and the Tribunal chair glanced at me, unsure of what KYC stood for. Fortunately, I knew it was the ‘Know Your Client’ protocol and said so.

Shockingly, the witness stated that he had always wondered what the initials stood for and had meant to check before giving evidence that morning.

I found this astounding; the witness apparently complied with the policy yet did not understand what it stood for. It occurred to me that the policy had been learnt in parrot fashion and that the witness had little comprehension of the need for such a policy.

Subsequently, one must question the integrity of a system where the rules are followed but the rationale behind them is not understood.

Quite simply, mechanical box checking is not enough.

 

It is the responsibility of the leaders to establish and foster the conditions – the culture -  that create high levels of integrity. Our work empowers senior leaders to achieve this.

About The Author | Peter Woodward

Peter Woodward worked for 27 years in the “high technology” industry, first with Texas Instruments and then Intel Corporation. After spending nine years in a wide range of manufacturing and production planning roles he moved into human resources. Peter’s roles at Intel included European Human Resource Director, and Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) Training Director. He played a key role in developing and delivering a range of advanced and sophisticated training programmes to more than 3500 Intel managers worldwide, with particular focus on the Pentium design, production teams and marketing teams. On leaving Intel, Peter moved into an independent consulting role and has undertaken a wide variety of briefs/projects including being a member of a “transfer of western management practices” consulting team for joint Chinese French (EDF) development of a Nuclear Energy Centre in Beijing; and was appointed as lead HR consultant during a major change initiative with the Abbey National International Bank. Peter’s expertise also includes using psychometric tools to advance leadership; 360 survey activities; employment and discrimination tribunals and systems for effective objective-setting. He also advises start-up technology companies with board-level experience.

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