Can I request a neutral person on an interview panel?

I am in a selection pool of three employees for one role. The interviews are being carried out by my line manager who has secured the role of managing the successful applicant. The other two in the pool are managed by a different line manager who is moving on from the team. I have had a very difficult relationship with my manager regarding my performance which did involve me speaking to her line manager who has had to intervene on several occasions. I have never had any formal warnings, but I have been on the end of a very passive aggressive attitude shown towards me by my manager. I feel very uncomfortable with the fact she is on the interview board and it is very clear how she feels about my ability. Do you think it is reasonable for me to challenge this as an unreasonable disadvantage and request a neutral person to be on the interview panel?

Assuming that your query relates to a redundancy situation (based on your reference to a “selection pool”), if you have any concerns about the selection process, it is perfectly reasonable to raise these concerns with your employer. In fact, if you do not, but then only raise the issue after the event it might undermine the credibility of the complaint and leave your employer to question why you had not raised it sooner.

In the first instance, you could raise your concerns at any consultation meetings your employer holds to discuss the potential redundancy, or with someone within the HR department. You should make it clear that you object to your manager being on the interview board and that you feel that it would prevent a fair selection process, setting out your reasons why.

If your employer does not have a dedicated HR team, you should speak to your manager’s line manager, as they are already aware of the situation in relation to your manager and the redundancy.

The options for resolving your concerns could include removing your manager from the interview board and either replacing her or allowing other members of the board to make a decision. The risk of this option is that it might leave no-one on the board who understands the role or the work involved and so any decision may not be fully informed. Alternatively, they might decide that they do require someone with direct experience of the role, but that no-one else within the organisation is suitably qualified and so your manager would be left on the board. In that event your employer may remind her to approach the selection process fairly, without bias, plus her views may be tempered by the other members of the board.

If you are not satisfied with the decision that your employer comes to you will also have two main options. You can raise a formal grievance at this stage. This could lead to the whole process being suspended whilst your employer conducts a formal investigation, although it is questionable whether the employer would come to a different decision. Alternatively, you can then wait and see how the interview process goes. If you are not selected for the role then you should have the opportunity to appeal against the decision, citing the fact that you had already raised these concerns prior to the interview but that still your manager’s personal views were allowed to interfere with the process.

If this does not in fact relate to a redundancy situation, it is still reasonable for you to raise your concerns. Again, initially you can raise them with HR or a more senior line manager explaining why you think the process may be prejudiced. If you are not satisfied with the decision, either prior to or following the interview, you could then raise a formal grievance which your employer would be obliged to investigate and address.

Either way, you are quite right to raise your concerns as early as possible, as this is the best thing you can do to protect your own position.

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