A member of my team, reporting to a deputy, is refusing to attend regular 1-to-1 meetings (which otherwise are standard practice across the whole team). The only reason she offers is "my union say I don't have to" - although no specifics are offered (i.e. applicable legislation).

The same employee has refused to participate in the last annual professional development exercise.

I'm tempted to say that 1-to-1s are a vital part of an employee's work, are necessary to ensure everyone's able to work on the right things, in the right way and ultimately a reasonable management request which will be a disciplinary issue if she continues.

Is this approach unreasonable?

closed as off-topic by Chris E, GreenMatt, jimm101, gnat, AndreiROM Apr 8 '16 at 20:49

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking advice on company-specific regulations, agreements, or policies should be directed to your manager or HR department. Questions that address only a specific company or position are of limited use to future visitors. Questions seeking legal advice should be directed to legal professionals. For more information, click here." – Chris E, GreenMatt, jimm101, gnat, AndreiROM
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    Is she right? Sounds like you need to be talking to the shop steward, not to an Internet forum. – Wesley Long Apr 8 '16 at 17:53
  • A possible explanation for such a union rule is that a female employee may have concerns about meeting privately with a male supervisor. That said, this is something we can't answer here. You'll need to talk about things with whoever in your company (or your company's labor lawyer) is the expert on what is allowed under your contract with the union. – GreenMatt Apr 8 '16 at 18:15
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    You should have a union rep. Tall to the rep and ask them for the basis. If that does not resolve it then talk to your hr. Sure seems fishy to me a union worker would not have to come to meeting. I assume this is on the clock. – paparazzo Apr 8 '16 at 18:17
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    Is this meeting a disciplinary matter, or part of the normal job, like a progress, problems encountered, time-line type reporting? – DJohnM Apr 8 '16 at 20:14
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    Which country? Why does nobody ever state which country? – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 9 '16 at 17:48

I would suggest you ask the union rep and Human resources rep about this in a meeting and ask what might be the basis for making this claim and what you need to do to make it possible for her to attend the meetings. You might need to meet first with your HR rep before inviting the union rep to the meeting.

Once you have agreement between the Union and HR, I would invite the rep and the employee to a meeting with HR to discuss what can and can't be required of the employee in terms of meetings and professional development. If the Union rep and HR are in a agreement as to the things the person can refuse to do, then this meeting should make it clear to the employee what her limits are and what will get her in trouble as far as performance. Having the union rep at the meeting already would take away her excuses.

If on the other hand, the union rep says this behavior is ok (and please get him or her to cite the relevant contract clauses), get the union rep to tell you what you can do to remove the obstacle. Do you need to have a third person present? Do you need to replace in person meetings with emails? What? Again once you know what you can ask of the employee, have a meeting with all the relevant parties.

When you end up meeting with the employee, see if you can find out why she objects to one on one meetings. Is there something you can do to make her more comfortable?

Follow up your meeting with a written confirmation of what was said and what the employee will be expected to do to be considered in compliance. Reference this document if she continues to refuse and then use it to start the process of documenting her performance issue (refusing to do valid work related tasks is a performance issue).

Just because she is in a union doesn't mean she can't be fired for cause, it means you have to carefully document what you do and don't skip any steps along the way. Your HR should be familiar with the necessary steps that the union has agreed to.

  • All this does is reinforce my belief that unions no longer have a place in our economy. The hoops and BS that an employer/manager has to jump through just to be able to call an employee on her behavior are utterly ridiculous. Thank you for the "handbook" on how to navigate such a nightmare. – AndreiROM Apr 8 '16 at 19:11
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    @AndreiROM, on the other hand I have seen people fired because they wanted to give the job to their cousin who just graduated. Or because they were in a bad mood today. Workers need some protections from companies and unions are the most viable way to get them. – HLGEM Apr 8 '16 at 20:05
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    @AndreiROM don't forget, you're in "the West", but most people on this site are in the USA. Very, very different situation when it comes to legislation and protection of workers. – Carson63000 Apr 8 '16 at 21:21
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    @AndreiROM I believe most of our SE colleagues from the US will have "at will" employment terms which means that they won't have a contract and can be fired because their manager is having a bad day. So much for their being protected by legislation. In the UK, where I live, the unions are under attack by the current govt... so much for our being protected by legislation here. As ever, employee vs. employer legislation and frameworks is a pendulum that can easily swing too far one way as it can the other. – Rob Moir Apr 9 '16 at 16:00
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit observation based on reading most of the questions, answers and comments posted since Workplace was in beta. – Carson63000 Apr 9 '16 at 22:47

When she offers "my union say I don't have to" then ask for the name of the person in the union that told her she does not have to. This sure smells fishy to me.

You should have a union representative (rep). Talk to the rep and ask for the basis for refusing to attend the regular 1-to-1 meeting. If that does not resolve the issue then get HR involved. You don't want to get into a dispute with the union without knowing where you stand.


A one-to-one is there to talk about problems either way, in order to improve things. If someone refuses to do one-to-ones, they give up on chances to improve things. It is quite possible that you don't have to participate in a one-to-one, but unless everything you do is absolutely perfect, you are losing out.

It would be quite possible that an employee regularly does something wrong which could be fixed very easily with very little actual effort. Not participating in a one-to-one means that this doesn't get fixed. So the manager can only act on it when things get really bad. What if the salary for the next year is discussed? Imagine a conversation where the employee is told "sorry, no raise for you because your work had certain faults". Employee says "but you should have told me about those faults", and then they are told "that's what you are told in a one-to-one".

Edit: Some comment says "this doesn't answer the OP's question, and will attract downvotes". The OP's stated question is "can an employee refuse a 1-to-1 meeting". The OP's real question is "what can I do when I want a 1-to-1 and the employee refuses and says he has the right to refuse". With my answer it is obvious that the OP can tell the employee "If you refuse to have a 1-to-1, it makes my life more difficult, but it may also have considerable disadvantages for you. "

  • It does seem like a massively career-limiting move. Perhaps the OP could ask one of the conscientious objector's co-workers to tell her that one-on-ones are really not that scary. Honey rather than vinegar, so to speak. – Carson63000 Apr 8 '16 at 21:23
  • This does not answer the OP's question, and will probably attract down votes. – Amy Blankenship Apr 8 '16 at 21:28

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