This is one of those blog posts with unusual beginnings and which, albeit hopefully in a good way, may be read differently by different people. In a nice roundabout way, albeit slightly coincidentally, we’re also celebrating today being ‘Love Your Pet Day’ through the dog-related theme!

Let’s just clarify what ‘the fear’ is before continuing.  Basically, ‘the fear’ is a largely 1990s-based phenomenon centring round a particular episode of FRIENDS in which Rachel loses the desire to continue in their current job but, without her acting to resign, lacks the determination to make the decision to get another job.  In this way, ‘the fear’ is similar to the fear of failure that drives you to revise hard for exams or the fear of not being fit enough for a half-marathon which pushes you to go for a run even when you don’t feel like it and, obviously, losing ‘the fear’ to apply full efforts within a job can make a noticeable difference.

Now, naturally, all jobs and employers are different. You can work in the same role at two different places and have completely different experiences to the same extent that you can have two different job titles within the same employer and have polar opposite enjoyment levels. However, for the sake of the rest of this blog, let’s take a really general (and vague) view of this tricky situation for employees and employers alike.

In advising employees and employers, the common scenario is that the employee has lost interest in working for the employer anymore.  This can be for any reason including those which relate to the employee’s mindset (i.e. that they’ve become bored with lack of variety or want a fresh challenge) or relating to the employer’s actions (i.e. being passed up for promotion or being denied a payrise). 

However, do most employees who decide they don’t like their job or aren’t motivated by their job (albeit they may not actively dislike it) instantly quit?  No!  Naturally, this is mainly for financial reasons, including wanting to look for another job whilst still employed, but also because many employees deploy common sense by accepting that their mindset may change and they may simply need time to process whether a move to a different job is the right thing to do and whether there is a better alternative.

Let’s have a look at a cheeky (and not so subtle) example.  ‘Charlie Brown Peanuts Limited’ has multiple employees, including a certain ‘Mr Snoopy’.  Mr Snoopy has lost interest in his role and, whilst he doesn’t appear the most motivated in the workplace, as is common in these situations, his performance has not become unacceptably low nor has he committed any acts of misconduct.  Rather, his line manager, Peppermint Patty, has noted that he is tweaking his CV during his lunch break.  What could Peppermint Patty do with this knowledge?

Well, firstly, it is a bit of an employment law myth that amending a CV (or, more awkwardly, searching for jobs online) is a clear disciplinary offence if done during break periods.  Naturally, doing so during normal working hours is a breach of rules by way of not performing due work but, in itself, the act of discreetly (‘discreetly’ being key) considering jobs with other employers during allocated break periods isn’t as serious as sometimes believed.

In saying this, obviously, if Mr Snoopy got colleagues to help with his CV during working hours and/or openly discussed ‘hating’ his current job and applying for other jobs with members of staff, that would be seen as unprofessional behaviour but, again, he’d most likely need to do so in a rather over-the-top manner for any formal sanction to be applicable to him.  So what does Peppermint Patty do?

Well, the usual course of action would be to invite Mr Snoopy to have an informal chat and ask about his long-term plans and whether he was still committed to the job.  In effect, Peppermint Patty would be asking him to paws for thought (sorry!)  Mr Snoopy can be informed of what he can and can’t do and, naturally, can be told that any act to job search with working hours would be viewed very seriously and may be a disciplinary offence.  Overall, Peppermint Patty may wish to explore whether Mr Snoopy can be trusted to give 100% in the meantime and, if not, may wish to discuss his options and/or put forward a proposal for him to leave under an amicable exit (albeit Peppermint Patty should definitely get advice from an Employment Law Solicitor on the method of doing this safely!)

From Mr Snoopy’s point of view, it may well be that an amicable exit or some form of arrangement with Peppermint Patty (i.e. ‘if you get a job offer, we’ll minimise your notice period and/or give you a nice reference’), helps persuade him to fully decide to apply for other jobs where he hesitated before.  He may want a complete change of scenery and want to go for one of the more varied job roles available which, rather amazingly, include Dog Surfing Instructor (perhaps for entrants into the World Dog Surfing Championships which, on a separate note, is well worth a YouTube Search!), Waterslide Tester or Penguinologist!

Whichever way, the exploring of alternative vacancies by an employee in itself isn’t usually a breach of the employment relationship nor necessarily the end of the road unless the employee has truly lost ‘the fear’ and this materially shows within their performance or conduct within the workplace.  Whatever your opinion on the above, I hope the one thing that can be agreed is that you should celebrate National Love Your Pet Day by searching YouTube for a clip of the World Dog Surfing Championships, as it won’t disappoint!