Letters of the week: horsing around with herd instinct

So Manchester Business School has moved into horse
whispering “Forget taming stallions…(News, 16 January).

My simplistic understanding of horse whispering is that it
plays on the herd instinct, with the whisperer feigning rejection of the
recalcitrant animal from the herd. Fear of being left out of the action then
drives the horse into meek compliance in order to become or remain part of the

Has MBS hit on the next big idea in HR management?

Robert Clarke

Director of Human Resources

Keighley College


Might it be an idea for Personnel Today to introduce a
“Pseuds Corner” and might I propose the first quote from the article about
horse whispering, I would suggest the following is a prime example of some
meaningless flannel.

“The metaphor is that managers have to think less in terms
of taming wild stallions and more in terms of seeing the horse as a vulnerable
creature that can be calmed by good leadership and gentle persuasion,” stated
Professor Tudor Rickards.

Really, does he think we are all mad? I’m not sure where the
added value is in introducing and teaching this metaphor.

Amanda Perry

European HR manager

Via e-mail


Letter of the Week

It is vital to track absence record

Of course absence and illness reasons should be treated
confidentially and staff concerned be assured that this will be so.

Quite apart from the issues raised on the front page of
Personnel Today, “Data rules could curb staff absence records” (16 January) and
the fact that employers pay staff to come to work and to actually be at work,
if employers are not able to keep records of absence then they could
unwittingly be discriminating.

How are they to distinguish between pregnancy-related and
non-pregnancy related absence, for example, or, say, a disability-related

Also, any employer worth its salt will want to track
sickness absence to ensure that all its employees are fit to be at work –
absence reasons, if carefully studied, often highlight underlying problems
which any responsible employer will want to ensure are tackled, or at least to
be able to offer help to the employee.

Someone who has a series of “nebulous” sickness reasons, for
instance, with perhaps a pattern to the absences may be suffering from stress
which may or may not be work-related.

Employers need to be able to pick up these indicators and
review the apparent problem with the employee.

Employers are not collecting the information just for the
sake of it or because they are nosy. 
Employers have much better things to do with their time (and that of
their staff) and money.

Any responsible employer needs to know not only when and how
often the absence is occurring but for what reason(s) for good, practical

Susan Austin-Burr

HR manager, Human Resources

& Quality Department

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors


There should be time limit on files

I think the proposal that employers should have to get
consent from staff to record sickness absence is a real step forward in the
Data Protection Act.

Working for a public sector company which recently became a
Plc, details of absence are recorded on file, including all sickness absence,
funerals, industrial action and any other reasons – marital problems for

I have written to my personnel department requesting a copy
of my personnel file but am still waiting for it four months on.

I feel this type of information should not be held on file
for an indefinite period of time and that all employers should ask for the
written consent of employees

as to what is recorded on their file.

Nick Price

Via e-mail


I do not feel that employers should require consent from
their staff to keep sickness records.

The records are needed for:

Calculation of SSP/SMP etc

Calculation of Company Sick Pay entitlement.

It is also needed to alert senior staff of any developing
problem that may need Occupational Health support.

Janice Partridge

Personnel officer

Solihull Sixth Form College

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