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Avoid these four crucial mistakes when disciplining an employee

by , 25 January 2013
Avoid these four crucial mistakes when disciplining an employeeDisciplining employees is the most unpleasant task a supervisor or manager will have to make in his career. And while it's essential to take disciplinary action against acts like theft, alcohol abuse in the workplace and blatant misconduct, seeing disciplinary hearings as a way to infringe punishment on an unruly employee isn't the right way to approach the situation. Another thing you must avoid is making these four common disciplinary mistakes...

'Some employees drive us around the bend! They are unmanageable, frequently misconducts and simply do not understand the rules other employees seem to easily comply with,' exclaims Johanette Rheeder on The South African Labour Guide website. That's where disciplinary hearings come in – they're a great way to ensure your company runs smoothly and employees stick to your company's code of conduct.
But a disciplinary hearing can quickly become a 'us against them' situation.
That's why it's crucial you avoid making these common disciplinary action mistakes in your company.
Never make these four disciplinary mistakes
#1: Inconsistency
It's crucial to apply the same rules to everyone when it comes to taking disciplinary action. If you apply your disciplinary measures fairly and consistently and stick to the rules for disciplinary hearing conduct, your company can't be investigated for unfair disciplinary hearing labour practices.
This said, you also need to look at each case based on its merits. If the employee is a repeat offender or if there are any unusual mitigating circumstances, you can mete out different penalties for the same offence.
#2: Assuming your employees know your disciplinary policies
'Never take it for granted your employee is aware of your policies and procedures,' cautions Taryn Strugnell in the Labour Bulletin. 'He can't be found guilty if he doesn't know what the disciplinary policies are. In labour law the employee has the right to not know the law. So ignorance is an excuse.'
And that means it's your responsibility to make sure your employees understand your company's disciplinary policies. One great way to do this is to review disciplinary policies in a workshop session every six months. This will ensure everyone knows what the rules and the likely penalties for each offence are.
#3: Not following the basic rules of a disciplinary hearing
Don't breach the basic procedures for a disciplinary hearing. To avoid being taken to the CCMA, you need to conduct a 'free and fair' disciplinary hearing.
#4: Not recording the disciplinary hearing
Keep complete and professional documentation of the disciplinary hearing ready for presentation to the CCMA if your employee appeals the decision. Type up all handwritten reports and keep records of the evidence presented.
Don't make these mistakes! If you follow the correct disciplinary hearing steps, you can avoid turning simple infringements into long, complicated CCMA cases.

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