Dear Ted

The questions come from my mentees, and were first pulished on LinkedIn. Feel free to comment on them if you like. And if you have a question then send me a note!


Kiss by Perevision"Kiss" by Perevision, an Illustrator currently living in London who loves animation, comics, travel writing and fantasy books. Click this link to Redbubble and the opportunity to support her work


Latest Posts

Dear Ted: Is it OK to work over Christmas?

Posted on 21st December, 2019

Yes and No!


For a large number there is no choice, we need the emergency services, transport, security..... For others Christmas is not celebrated, so they want to get on with their lives. And for some work is their entire world, so being forced to stop is not always healthy


For those who work in offices, agencies etc., with a one or two week closedown, then Christmas is often the only time of year that they get to properly relax and allow stress levels to drop (because during Summer holidays the emails keep arriving regardless)


If you are a manager or leader and you choose to continue to work, the best thing you can do for your team is not to send things to them, or even allow them to realise that you're working. Keep those emails containing all your great ideas as drafts, and then slowly release them during January in priority order


And then remember, if you are lucky enough to have a family, this is the one time in the year they will expect to be able to reconnect with you, so put aside the laptop as much as you can, give your eyes a rest and engage those ears and your mouth instead!


And don't keep checking emails on your mobile! If there is a crisis they will call. 

Dear Ted: Who appraises the appraisors?

Posted on 23rd October, 2019

Some organisations have fixed calendar appraisals that link to pay review, others keep them separate, some prefer not to have a formal system at all, but best practice, as generally accepted, is that everyone should have a regular opportunity to review their work and their development .... and that includes senior line managers and board members


The CEO should review each member of the Exec team and then the CEO should be appraised by the Chair of the board. The Chair also has the task of reviewing the work of the board members, and the Chair themselves is normally reviewed by the senior independent board member, who will sound out the views of the other board members and the CEO before their conversation.


In the larger organisations independent reviews of boards are often carried out on behalf of the Chair by HR Consultants, who can also look at effectivess and diversity, ensuring that appropriate training is in place and that members haven't overstayed their usefulness, and are sufficiently independent!


Recently several large organisations, both charitable and commercial, have fallen foul of best practice and run into trouble, and it is often because relationships at the top have become too comfortable.


Food for thought!

It’s actually more common than you think, and a good interviewer will know that you’re really excited about the job if you get nervous. 


First thing is to be honest.  Right at the start explain that you get really nervous in interviews.  A good interviewer will support you.  I had a candidate who couldn’t even speak, I took him for a walk outside and back to get some water and he was able to relax and started to chat.  If they don’t want to help you, do you really want to work there anyway?  And maybe you’ll then relax and give a great interview!


It’s perfectly acceptable to go into an interview with some notes.  So maybe take in a folder with your cv in it, and some bullet points to remind you of the key experiences and projects that you’ve done that you want to tell them about.  Open this up at the beginning and then refer to it if the nerves kick in.


Use some little tricks to keep you going, take a sip of water, take some breaths, and just occasionally buy some time by repeating back the question before answering it (but not too often!)


If everything goes wrong, consider sending a note afterwards saying you’re really sorry that your nerves took over and thank them for their support.  If they didn’t fill the vacancy they might just call you back.

Finding a job that you love is quite a special thing, so it might be worth fighting for, especially since your employer won’t want to lose you.


Firstly, use a search engine to find salaries for your job title, adverts with pay, Linkedin jobs and salary survey sites (search for “salary checker”).  Look at pay ranges in local universities and local government.  Keep a spreadsheet with all the data and use it to provide an average and a range.  Separately put together a table showing your take home pay (after deductions), and what is spent on the big items like commuting and rent.


Also have a think about the structure of the organisation and your skills and see if you can identify an opportunity that would give your boss the excuse to move or promote you and give you a pay rise


Take the data to your line manager and explain that you you love what you do, but you can’t afford to stay, here’s the evidence and that you’re thinking about leaving.  If nothing happens then you won’t feel bad about resigning at a later date, or about asking for time off for interviews!


From what you’ve told me the biggest issue is in the office, where some team members are based five days a week.  They see you all travelling around from a sales pitch to a delivery meeting and wonder what’s happening and why things are so rushed when you get back to the office.


There are several things to consider: 


  • An agreement to try not to have external meetings every Monday morning (or other day that works) and all to keep an hour for a catch-up over coffee
  • A WhatsApp group (or similar) where you all just chat briefly about what’s happening in the moment
  • Regular short Emails to all from the people travelling, such as “Sales pitch at XXX went really well, we need a draft proposal, YES!”
  • Everyone puts a note in their diary that the team can see where they are each day, preferably a week in advance
  • Find chances to take the office folk out on trips with you, to learn what happens
  • Hold occasional away days with the whole team, putting things into perspective and having some fun



As I said when we chatted about this, the good news is that both are passionate about the success of the business.  Unfortunately others in the Company perceive there is a rift and are concerned, plus it’s using up a lot of energy.


As with many things in life, the first thing to do is check in with both of them, separately, and explain the impact they are having on the organisation.  They may not realise that it is being noticed, let alone is worrying people.  Listen to what they are trying to achieve and make some notes. 


Look for the common ground and then meet with them together, privately.  Help them to agree that differences of opinion will be resolved privately in future, or with the non-Exec Chairman if that is not possible.


Ultimately if we assume the Board back the CEO then it is the CFO who should accept the way forward or move on elsewhere, but hopefully it won't come to that. 


In a bigger company the above can apply to any divisional director and senior report.

This is quite often the case in more complex roles such as yours, where the organisation has to fill the void (often for regulatory reasons) and so reallocates work.  In your case the company didn’t use an interim, and effectively promoted one of the people working for you and then created a new role for the other half of the job.


You should have a return to work interview with your line manager and/or HR.  It might be that they will look at a phased return of responsibilities for you, but if not then you have a choice to make. 


If the job is no longer suitable then it might be sensible to have a protected conversation (without prejudice, ie it isn’t recorded on your file) about either internal alternatives, or the possibility of a paid settlement agreement, given that if they insist on maintaining the new set-up they will have constructively dismissed you (ie they have engineered your departure)


For readers, these issues are very complex, do get specialist help

You need to raise this with whoever runs the contract (eg your Head of Facilities) and his line manager.  Explain that it has the potential to bring the organisation into disrepute and needs to be sorted out quickly.   Ensure that they have the evidence, as the officer may be unaware of the impact they have had.


The matter should then be dealt with under the contractors disciplinary code (probably a warning, maybe written and training support) or as a welfare issue if there is some other circumstance (eg illness or medicines that have changed his personality).  Their HR team should be involved, not you.


It is highly likely that the officer will be moved to another site that the security firm operate…. they won’t want to lose your business, but at least that gives him a chance to adjust and make amends. 



I’m pleased you asked first!  This is a guy who has worked for you, without blemish, for 3 years.  The first thing you have to do is have a very gentle private chat.


Simply say that you’ve noticed that he has been in late quite often recently (don’t formalise by stating dates and times at this stage) and ask if all is OK.  Then go quiet, don’t fill the void (if there is one) by chatting, instead give him time to compose himself and tell you what he wants to.


I’ve been here many times in life, and the reasons can be annoying and fixable (the trains are messing up, my car share has ceased, my bike is being repaired); or sometimes they can be very serious, such as my partner or parent is ill, my son is being bullied on the way to school so I need to take him, or I’m having to go to the doctors for a regular blood pressure test and they don’t open till 8am; and finally they can be annoying for another reason, for example he admits he’s been going for interviews!


If the gentle chat and your offer of support doesn’t work then you can get into warnings and disciplinary action, but it’s rare this is needed.  Most people just need some help, or recognition, or flexibility (eg you agree different hours for the next couple of months) and it’s sorted.

Do you have a staff committee?  If you do then this would be a great project for them to get involved in.  And I say that because wellbeing isn’t something that you can impose, you need active involvement from lots of people.


If not then send round a communication to all, inviting those with an interest to step forward and volunteer to help. Run some brainstorming sessions, get people to talk to friends and find out what is happening elsewhere, and if you get lots of offers of help maybe split up into groups to cover different aspects, such as mental health, physical wellbeing, dietary health, financial etc. 


And who knows: maybe the wellbeing team will morph into a staff committee over time as they discuss issues that need to be resolved in the organisation


Don’t worry about a policy - just start doing stuff!  And the great thing is that you won’t need a big budget, and most activities people will happily take part in during their own time