It starts as usual. I’m already there, talking to her manager at his meeting table. We call her in, and she looks at me apprehensively, then to her manager, and then back to me. She sits down, head down, hands in her lap, looking at us nervously. I can tell she’s thinking “There’s the woman from HR. I wonder what’s going to happen to me now?”
There’s a tension in the air. Who will break the silence?
I start by smiling, and telling H that we’re now at the end of the first 4 weeks she’s been back to work. This is a review. How is it going? – I ask them both.
The nod and mutter. H says she feels frustrated, her manager says the same. They’re observing from different viewpoints, and I can tell that while their words are similar, their meanings are very different.
H is frustrated because she can never get to the bottom of the in-tray because she’s too busy. Her manager is frustrated because she never gets to the bottom of her in-tray because she’s wasted hours on pointless activities – mainly searching for items which aren’t there.
They’re both looking at me, both old enough to be my parents, pleading with me to sort it out – to tell them what is for the best. There’s no ageism in this room. They know I can help them, and they hang on my words.
I tease out the problems, make them air them. Lay them on the table and examine them closely.
But its early days. H isn’t back to full hours yet. Its all so new. We must give it enough time.
Both think the meeting went well. I come away feeling uneasy. They will part company, those two.
The manager hopes it will be soon.
H goes in search of folders, oblivious.