Employees refusing to accept it’s over and move on

workplace grievance

Mary was having none of it. There must be something she can do. She was going to take it further and go to the High Court, if necessary.

This reaction is one which I encounter on a regular basis. Perhaps even once a week or once a fortnight.

The person involved will usually be an employee and will have come to me for a consultation and to get some advice.

Once I have listened carefully to what she tells me and I review any relevant documents such as the outcome of an investigation or disciplinary process, or perhaps a decision of a body like the Workplace Relations Commission or Labour Court, I give the best, most professional, honest advice possible.

And often it does not go down well when you tell Mary or John or Pavel that the best thing for them to do is put the issue behind them, no matter how difficult this might first appear, because there is simply nowhere else to go with it.

There is nothing to be done.

He or she simply must accept the situation and that not every wrong or unfairness or knock gives rise to a legal claim or cause of action.

Sometimes, you can just be incredibly unlucky or treated unfairly or get hard done by.

But sometimes, like in sport for example, you just have to accept the decision. And accept that when it’s over, it’s over.

All you can do by trying to pursue the matter further, and obsessing and thinking about it, is to cause yourself even more frustration, and possibly cause yourself a mental injury.

Let me give you a couple of simple examples.

The first one is where a man came to me having taken a case to the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission) and lost. He then appealed this decision to the Labour Court and lost.

When he told me the circumstances of his case and I read the decisions of the WRC and Labour Court it was as plain as a pikestaff why he lost. He simply did not have a case known to law or that was capable of winning.

He was bound to fail.

Now he wants to go to the High Court and appeal the Labour Court decision. I advised him he can only do this on a point of law-that is, if the Labour Court, in arriving at its decision, erred in law.

This is not the case.

Pavel is insistent and still wants to go to the High Court. He is in danger of consuming himself with an unhealthy obsession over something that happened in the workplace two years ago.

He is bound to fail. I must tell him this. I must tell him to try to put the issue behind him and move on. But he won’t.

A second example is one where Gerry started a new job after a successful career in a particular industry. Gerry had taken redundancy as it was available in his workplace and got a generous exit package with a substantial sum of money and an excellent reference.

Unfortunately for Gerry things did not work out well in the new job. The culture, ethos, and approach in the new workplace was much different than what he had been used to.

Gerry thought he could change that culture and influence them to move in the same direction as in the well-regulated, professional environment he had left.

It did not work out, Gerry failed to change the culture.

Not alone that, Gerry’s efforts to bring about change that was resisted led to him being terminated during the probationary period.

During a probation period it is the common law position that an employee can be let go for good, bad, or no reason. It could be as simple as the employee not fitting in to the new environment.

This leaves the employee in a vulnerable position because without the necessary 12 months’ service in the job the Unfair Dismissals act 1977 will not apply to any dismissal. Therefore if the employee is terminated during probation or within the first 12 months the legal remedies open to the employee are limited.

For example, Gerry can refer a trade dispute to the WRC under the Industrial Relations act 1969 but this can only lead to a legally unenforceable, non-binding recommendation.

And in any case, if Gerry was to bring such a ‘trade dispute’ to the WRC he would have to wait 6 months for a hearing, a further 6 months for a decision, and he would probably lose the case anyway. Because the employer did go through a fair procedure in deciding to terminate his employment.

Once I tell Gerry this, however, he is not accepting it. He feels hard done by and wants revenge.

And there is no talking to him.

So there is the danger he will continue to obsess about the decision to terminate his employment when the best (and only) thing for him to do is put it behind him and move on.


I know it is difficult to put an injustice behind you. I know the sense of unfairness and hurt can be powerful and all consuming.

But sometimes you just have to accept it’s over. Just like the decision and outcome at the end of a sporting contest or race.

For your own good, your mental health, your well-being.