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Do you have a "Tracey Trap" in your business?

An office worker who talked so much her colleagues referred to her conversations as the 'Tracey Trap', has had her unfair dismissal claim thrown out today.


Tracey Bodman resigned from AA-Wargames, a company based in Westbury, Wiltshire, after she was given a warning by her bosses for her slow performance. Her colleagues at the company, which sell toys and games on eBay, complained that Ms Bodman would chat to them for up to half an hour, stopping them from getting back to work.


They claimed they felt unable to 'break off' from talking to her, while at the same time, Ms Bodman's own pace of work became too slow, a hearing in Bristol was told. After her bosses discovered she was only sending a mere four or five emails an hour instead of the expected 15 or 20 messages, a disciplinary hearing was triggered.


Ms Bodman resigned and later claimed she hadn't been trained properly, was not allowed to use her phone unlike others and was stopped from speaking with her co-workers. She took the family business to tribunal, claiming she was subjected to an unfair disciplinary process and was effectively forced out, allegations which have now been dismissed.


In May 2017, Ms Bodman started working as a general administrator for AA-Wargames, which is the second-hand Ebay operation of Triple Helix Wargames, the hearing heard.

Part of her role involve answering emails but in September 2019, issues were raised about Ms Bodman not working fast enough. Just months later in January 2020, she was found to have only answered four to five emails an hour - instead of the expected rate of 15 to 20.


She was called in for a disciplinary action meeting with Charlotte Judson and Steven Judson, who run the family business, on January 27 after her drop in performance, a court heard.

Her social chit-chat was also raised by her bosses, who said they had received feedback that her colleagues found themselves in conversations with her that they 'don't feel they can break off'. Steven Judson told the tribunal that Ms Bodman would chat to colleagues for 20 or 30 minutes with some people referring to this as the 'Tracey trap'.


At the initial disciplinary meeting, Mr Judson told her: 'Some feedback has come to me that people find themselves engaged in conversation with you and don't feel that they can break off. 'I'll pass that on I'll make sure that people are aware that engaging in just chit chat often is not going to be the most productive use of their time and can particularly be disruptive to others, there are certainly those who prefer to have a chinwag and we'll just have to cut that out a little bit.'


Mrs Judson also told the tribunal that during the meeting Ms Bodman became very emotional and 'would not engage in discussion'. After she resigned from the company, she took AA-Wargames to the tribunal, claiming that she had been effectively forced out. But the tribunal disagreed with her claims that she was told to stop speaking to colleagues and concluded that the warning was issued for her performance - not being on her phone or chatting.


Her various complaints about the disciplinary process and her treatment were also dismissed by employment judge Hazel Oliver.


Judge Oliver said: 'This was an oral warning only. AA-Wargames made some mistakes in a muddled process, which caused some confusion.


'This was not done deliberately. I therefore find that AA-Wargames did not act in a way either calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the trust and confidence.

'I do not find that Ms Bodman was prevented from speaking with her colleagues, or singled out while others were allowed to chat.


'It appears from the disciplinary meeting minutes that Ms Bodman was not being disciplined for failing to deal with queries she had not been trained on.


'She was being disciplined for lack of productivity, where she was sending 4 or 5 emails an hour instead of 15 to 20.


'These findings mean that the claim for unfair constructive dismissal fails and is dismissed.'


Hats off to Judge Oliver!


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