Why Do I Have to go to Mandatory Counseling

by Evil HR Lady on August 20, 2010

Sometimes policies are just ridiculous, but as long as they are relatively harmless, just grin and bear it. Even if it involves a mandatory counseling session. Here’s why.

Why Do I Have to go to Mandatory Counseling?

Photo by Joe Houghton, Flickr cc 2.0

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous August 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

OK, sorry, it just seems like there's SOOO much wrong with your answer. I mean, apart from the little-known fact that there's NO scientific basis to psychology to begin with, due to the ethical problems with the experiments you'd have to perform on humans to establish that scientific basis, since when does your job have the right to require you to receive any MEDICAL treatment? That's absurd. Next they'll be printing out the list of all their employees who have to have their tonsils out or get flu shots! And no, drug testing is not treatment.

It also seems to me that sorting out the list the computer spit out for the potential candidates who shouldn't be on it is exactly the job HR should be doing. How is helping employees feel less like a number not "actually helping the business" or "developing people?"

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Evil HR Lady August 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I don't believe this was supposed to an actual psychological session, but rather a "what can we do to ensure you're not out so much next year session."

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Charles August 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

What harm can there be in emailing HR and politely asking them what this is for?

If the letter is "spit out by a computer" then bringing it to an actual person's attention might help to clear up this kind of nonsense.

Maybe get your boss involved as it will take you from work (I am assuming that this meeting is scheduled during working hours and not during your time off. If it is scheduled during your time off – then I would advise screaming like hell!)

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Anonymous August 20, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I doubt I'd have a "nice chat" with the counselor. Because in my mind, the "counselor" would be a company shill, and I wouldn't trust him or her further than I could throw the average linebacker.

And yes, I'd be very annoyed by this "policy."

What I probably would do is bring some paperwork explaining the background and let the counselor look at it. And then say, "the absences were due to circumstances and necessary medical treatment beyond my control. Therefore, can we now please consider this mandatory session completed? I am very hopeful that nothing similar will ever happen again. Thank you. Have a nice day."

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Anonymous August 20, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I think doing this by computer is a great way to go. I am dealing with far too many attendance issues at my job. As long as this policy is applied strictly by the numbers, the occaisional "wasted" appointment for someone that has legitimate medical issues is worth the cost to the company to put pressure put on the "can't make it to work on time/family drama" crowd. Of course this is assuming that the appointment is on company time.

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Joe Fox August 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I'm with the others on this one, Suzanne; this is one of the policies that companies need to realize is applied blindly and be kicked in the shins for (proverbially, not literally, of course!). Someone needs to call out the bad behavior or it doesn't stop. Just like sexual harrassment was the "thing" of the 60's/70's — bad HR management is the thing of the 90's and now. If we don't speak up against such abuses and tyrannically stupid behavior, who will?

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Interviewer August 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm

They would have to have exceptions to this rule – people who went on maternity leave would use up all their sick time, for example, but don't need counseling about it. Otherwise, the conversation about "preventing recurrences" would be pretty funny.

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Anonymous August 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm

As far as it not being an actual psychological session, in some states, NY in particular, to call yourself a "councilor" you have to be licensed as a mental health professional. So, yeah, a mandatory "counseling" session, if it was specifically referred to as a "counseling" session, would amount to an actual psychological session whether you discussed reasons for absences or the weather.

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Evil HR Lady August 20, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I've worked extensively with outplacement "counselors" in NY state and none of them were licensed mental health professionals. I'm thinking there has to be more than that to the law–but who knows, NY can be wonky.

But, actually irrelevant for the issue at hand, as the writer is from the UK.

Who knew this topic would breed so much discussion?

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EB August 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I think that evil HR lady missed the point – the OP is essentially being placed on a disciplinary track and undergoing the kind of counseling that problem employees who are being disciplined and are on their way to being fired undergo.

If I were the OP in the UK I would take a look out what my leave was classified as in order to see if I was on disability leave and if I am being counseled for a disability related item or if the medical leave was protected in some way.

If I was the OP the first things out of my mouth when I saw the counselor would be – "why am I being made to undergo disciplinary/probationary counseling for a disability?" or alternately "Why is the company forcing me to undergo disciplinary counseling for taking medical leave for a severe injury?" Put the counselor on the defensive and force them to justify the companies behavior.

Furthermore, the OP should not sign anything in the session acknowledging they have been warned about their performance, etc. etc., but reiterate that they were taking leave for a serious medical condition and write this on any paper they are presented with to sign.

I think it might be worth it for the OP to informally bring up to HR that she is being placed on a disciplinary track for taking medical leave and the OP wants to make sure that no disciplinary warnings or other marks regarding the OP's medical leave is going into the OP's HR record, especially if it is protected medical leave.

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Anonymous August 21, 2010 at 1:48 am

I'd probably be a little annoyed at wasting my time with this appointment, but the truth is, I wish my employer had a system like this. Instead, HR produces a list of employee with low leave balances ,sends it to the managers, and expects the managers to review the list and determine who needs to be counseled regarding their attendance. Sounds great, except that too many of the managers ignore the employees who really do have attendance problems. When they end up being supervised by someone else , they are truly amazed that someone is telling them that being either late or absent on 2/3 of their scheduled workdays is unacceptable. (and yes, I know my employer should do something about those managers, but that will never happen)

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Anonymous August 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

As a UK poster, I’d guess this is a local authority or other public body, probably running Bradford. My NFP uses an outsourced medical service, and would have done in this scenario: but to make sure the OP was fit to return and to see if there was anything we could do to support her /him in returning. We might use them service for the reasons the OP describes in a case where someone suffered from Mondayitis or a similar illness, but certainly not in this case. Like other posters, I would suggest a gentle query to either the line manager or the HR rep (depending on where the best relationship is) to ask how useful this will really be. However, this sort of thing in my organisation would be down to the line manager. They are the ones who should be managing the individual, not HR. If, as the last poster found, these managers don’t deal with it, then that’s an issue of their performance.

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Anonymous August 22, 2010 at 11:30 pm

My guess is that one or more people in the organisation have (or have had in the past) real bad attendance records which have not been dealt with for reasons beyond the control of HR (e.g. the offender is the main squeeze of a senior manager and is therefore seen as 'untouchable', or the offender is a minority who would scream sexism or racism or whateverism if challenged).

The OP is not this person, but to address the issue with this person, a system has been introduced that applies to everyone. EB – this won't put everyone on the disciplinary track, only those who cannot provide the counsellor with a legitimate reason for their absence (as the OP can). Those with less valid reasons, like Fridayitis or Mondayitis, will be put on the disciplinary track, with a series of documented verbal warning then written warnings. Under UK employment law, it will take 3-6 months to fire someone, which is why they want to get onto this. Also, the UK has different rules to the US about disability, so I don't think that is an issue here.

It is also worth noting that everyone in the UK gets 8 statutory days of holiday, plus at least 20 days annual holiday (many get 25+8), so OP has had almost 3 months off work this year. Wouldn't you want to know why?

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Mike August 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm

@Anon – Yeah, Friday/Mondayitis is a huge problem here. Did you know that nearly 40% of vacation days are taken on either a Monday or a Friday?

;)

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Guy Farmer August 25, 2010 at 6:01 am

Great article. It seems like we spend so much time focusing on filling out the proper forms and covering all the bases that we take the Human out of HR. Perhaps we could find some balance between following policies and procedures and making people feel worthless and insignificant, with a greater emphasis on helping people feel great.

Ultimately, these policies reflect the culture of the business or organization and usually comes from the top. I've found that companies that choose to value their employees don't have to worry as much about disgruntled or unhappy employees regardless of the situation.

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Class factotum August 25, 2010 at 12:53 pm

40% of vacation days are taken on either a Monday or a Friday?

It's OK to take a vacation day on Monday or Friday. It's not OK (or it's suspicious) to take a sick day.

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