SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

Bobby kicked into gear this week with the curious case of Juli Briskman and the one-fingered salute seen round the world.

A 50-year-old marketing executive from Virginia; Briskman lost her job on Monday after an image of her throwing up her middle finger at US President Donald Trump’s motorcade went viral.

Regardless of your political stance, the saga highlights some interesting points about social media and policy for its use among employees.

“The thing is, the photograph was one thing - but she decided to put the image up on Facebook and Twitter herself,” says Bobby.

Ms Briskman worked for a company called Akima LLC - a donor to the Trump campaign - and was told that she had breached company social media guidelines while potentially jeopardising current government contract bids.

“As you and I know, the workplace and the home-place are becoming a very blurred landscape at this stage,” says Bobby.

“You need be really careful about this.

“Companies should have a social media policy and the policy really needs to state exactly what you are allowed to do when you are using company technology.

“Most social media policies will have a catch-all that if you bring the company into disrepute, however you do it, you will be fired.”

Bobby, my company recently let our manager go. I have been asked to do his job with a promise of talking to me in a matter of weeks about money and making my position as manager official. This was 4 months ago and there has been no discussion since. My family are telling me if I continue doing the extra work for nothing they will never talk to me about money. My working week has increased by 6 hours a week outside of my normal 40 hour week. I'm responsible for all staff achieving targets and budgets, while maintaining my usual work standards. What would you advise?

In the workplace there are times when you need to stand up and take the bull by the horns - and the worry for this listener is that he may have already let his window of opportunity pass.

"I think he made a big mistake by not nailing it down when they needed him to take the position," says Bobby.

"They offered him a promise four months ago that there has been no discussion on since?

“I think it is really odd that he hasn't brought it up.”

For Bobby, talking to your family about an issue they can’t help you with is a waste of time - while the real conversation is left unspoken.

"I would say go back to the boss, say, 'this is what you promised' - and if he is not going to deliver on it, you need to start looking elsewhere," he says.

I’ve found myself stress out caused by the job. During a meeting I asked if the company was going do anything to help with the situation and my HR manager said it wasn't her problem - adding that her job was to protect the company. My stress is down to the fact the team has been downsized and I'm doing the work of three engineers. Any advice?

“I think on a point of detail, the HR manager is probably right in saying that it is not her job to sort out the engineering and the minutiae of their work,” says Bobby.

“She obviously has been given a job to downsize and to tell people that their roles are redundant or whatever - and she is doing that.”

Bobby’s advice for this listener is to take their concerns to their line manager - or someone who is familiar with the day-to-day details of the job - and if that gets them nowhere, it is time to look elsewhere.

“If you feel that you are stressed and if it is affecting you, that you should get yourself into a position where you have some options,” says Bobby.

“I would be saying to him - even if he doesn't decide to leave - put himself into a place where he isn't in a place that he can't decide to leave.

“Create a few options for yourself and I think you'll find even if you do decide to stay, you will be in a better place.”

Bobby, I have a company car, and my wife was included on company insurance. I found out today that my boss took my wife's name off the policy several years ago but never told me that she was no longer covered. She has driven my car with my kids regularly over the last number of years with no insurance. I assume this was done to save a few quid!

“This is a horrific story,” says Bobby. “I would suggest that it is very, very bad practice here by the employer.”

“Thank god that there was not an accident because I think you might find that the employer - having not communicated that to the employee - could be in very, very sticky territory.”

The advice is simple, it is time for this listener to confront his employer about what has happened - and get his wife reinstated on the policy as soon as possible.

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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