One of the things that an employer will need to do, sooner or later, is to deal with an employment issue that arises in the workplace.
It is important to deal with matters in as timely a fashion as practicable, rather than letting issues or concerns sit and fester and/or wait until there is a significant issue to resolve. While it may seem an over-reaction to call staff member to discuss minor indiscretions, you need to know that by not addressing these you could be sending a signal that certain behaviour is acceptable. This can then make it much harder to deal with issues at a later stage when they have escalated.
So, what should you do? Well, you don't have to treat every issue or concern that arises in the workplace as a formal disciplinary matter. In fact, in most situations, the first time an employee does something that they should not have done, the best course of action may simply be to pull them aside and have a quiet word in their ear. Tell them what they have done, why it wasn't appropriate, and ask them not to behave like that again. As the business owner or manager, doing this is part of your job. You owe it to both yourself and the employee, to make sure that they are clear on what you expect.
Taking the above steps does not require you to have any formal procedure in place. However, you must still deal with the employee respectfully and professionally. This means talking to them in private - not bailing them out in front of their colleagues or other parties. Make sure you are clear with what you are not happy about and why. Let the staff member explain their situation, but make it clear what you expect of them. Also make it clear that this discussion is not a disciplinary one and that you are just wanting to ensure they know what is expected of them. You should still tell the employee that if there is any repeat of the issues, then that may result in a more formal approach, which could result in disciplinary action. Make a file note of the discussion, including the date and time you had the chat.
If the concerns or issues that you need to deal with are more serious then you need to give consideration to initiating a formal meeting with the employee. In this case you should do this in writing, telling the employee what your concerns are and what the potential outcome may be if you are not satisfied with their response. In telling them of potential outcomes do not tell them they could be dismissed if the concerns are only misconduct for which a verbal or formal written warning might apply. Equally, if the concerns are serious, don't limit your outcome to a formal written warning if what they have done could result in their dismissal. The employee is entitled to know the seriousness of the issue and what the most severe outcome could be so that they can have every opportunity to convince you that what they have or haven't done is not what you understand it to be. You must also tell the employee that they are entitled to have a representative or support person present when they meet with you.
Do not go into any of these discussions with a closed mind on an outcome. You must keep an open mind and be prepared to accept the employee's explanation. You may find that after hearing from them that you need to do a more formal investigation before you make any decisions. It is recommended, to avoid accusations of bias or predetermination, that you get an independent person to carry out this investigation so that they can present the facts to you and your decision is therefore based solely on the facts uncovered by the investigation.
Whichever step you take, it is important that you action swiftly to resolve an employment issue. You must also ensure that you are consistent with how you approach employment issues and not treat one person more or less leniently than another in similar circumstances.
McKone Consultancy can assist you with any independent investigation you may require for finding a resolution to an employment relationship issue. We can also guide you through the process for correctly initiating formal disciplinary meetings and providing letters for setting out your decisions once these have been reached. Contact McKone Consultancy today if you need assistance with resolving an employment issue in your workplace.