HR department and discipline of the employees

Human resource managers play a key role in administering discipline in organizations. The course Human Resource Management - Discipline in Organizations begins by explaining what is meant by discipline and shows you how discipline is administered in organizations. You will learn why it is necessary for an organization to have disciplinary procedures and how you can have "just cause" for disciplining an employee. 

In some organizations, supervisors and managers are expected to handle routine disciplinary matters and call on the HR department to issue more serious disciplinary actions such as suspensions and/or terminations. In other organizations, the HR manager always participates in disciplinary meetings as a witness or is called upon to simply facilitate the meetings. There is no universal approach applicable to organizations or solving all possible situations. The approach an organization takes in deciding whether to include HR experts in disciplinary meetings is based on the organization's culture. Below are some important issues to consider in making this decision.

The first question is whether all supervisors and managers are well-trained in documenting disciplinary issues. Because new or untrained supervisors may create liability for the organization, they may require additional training from the HR manager on conducting and documenting disciplinary meetings. The HR manager's presence during disciplinary meetings can be linked to the differing expectations of employees and management. Some employees want the HR manager to serve as their protector during disciplinary meetings. Management may want the HR manager to be present as a witness. Others in the organization may see HR manager's role as a mediator, especially if they fear things will get out of hand. While HR professionals can fulfill any of these roles, the feasibility of doing so needs to be considered. For example, is the HR department sufficiently staffed for the HR manager to physically attend all disciplinary meetings between employees and management? How will the organization benefit from having the HR manager present at all disciplinary meetings? Let's say that Jim, a manager, asks a HR manager to be present during a disciplinary meeting with Matt and Jim's direct report. During the meeting, an HR professional quickly realizes the potential for a shouting match between Jim and Matt. By setting meeting ground rules, the HR professional is able to facilitate and focus the meeting on the facts rather than the underlying emotions, resulting in both sides feeling that their concerns were heard and addressed.

Let's compare this scenario to one where the HR expert serves as a coach. Sandra, a manager, contacts HR management to discuss her concerns about Helen's slipping performance. Prior to the manager-employee meeting, Sandra meets with the HR manager and is trained in a process that helps identify and document Helen's performance problems, including their impact on the organization. With the HR manager's coaching, Sandra is now able to effectively communicate to Helen a series of interventions to improve Helen's performance. While the HR manager never attended the disciplinary meeting between Sandra and Helen, his involvement was essential to both parties involved.

In addressing whether HR staff should be included in all disciplinary meetings, honestly examine the competencies within your HR department and their alignment to the needs, resources and culture of the organization. Ensure that your HR professionals and managers have been provided the appropriate training, tools and level of support they need within the organization.