Delivering a fair, consistent and effective disciplinary process can be very difficult when the employer and employee are both struggling with a really difficult emotive issue. Here are 7 tips taken from People Management magazine to help employers get it right:
1) Put it in writing: Without all the details in writing, you can wind up in legal trouble. Make sure to take notes in every interaction as soon as you can. Whether you are working through a positive or a negative situation, you need a document covering everything from initiation of the process to an appeals procedure/dismissal.
2) Fit the crime: Don’t throw the book at an employee for a whole range of issues – some issues are probably not serious, and you can’t lump all the issues together. Make sure that you understand clearly what you are initiating a disciplinary process for, so that you can be very clear with the employee and there is no misunderstanding.
3) Be supportive: If employees see the disciplinary system as being fair, they will be more likely to co-operate. Ensure that you are always non-confrontational and non-emotional throughout the process. Give ample notice of meetings, be open and honest about the process, and you will show your professionalism and ensure the integrity of the process.
4) Do it in stages: Unless it is a gross breach, start with an oral warning and build from there if necessary. Many employees will immediately improve if they realise they are receiving a warning. If you have to start further into the discipinary stages i.e. first written or final warning – make sure that you can justify skipping the first stages.
5) Think third parties: If it is a serious offence, or a repeat offence, (particularly if it could be dismissable) treat the issue as a situation that may lead to dismissal and third party. So bring your own representative (HR or manager) to your meetings whether or not the employee brings their own representative. ALWAYS allow an employee to bring someone with them when called to a disciplinary meeting – you can ask them who they are bringing.
6) Avoid confrontation: Starting a meeting with an accusation will immediately put the employee into a defensive and negative mode. Always ask the employee to give their side of the story, and talk about the issue and their point of view. Practise a neutral posture and language as your approach.
7) Follow it up: Even if you have sorted the issue (perhaps by issuing a verbal warning) don’t assume that the issue is closed. Arrange a follow-up meeting within a reasonable period of time to ensure that the employee has moved on, improved or changed their behaviour accordingly. You may be able to help them, offer training or hear any fresh concerns.