which process do we apply?

November 28th 2020

Often when we’re called to help navigate through an employment issue, our first conundrum is figuring out if we’re dealing with a disciplinary matter or a performance matter. The processes are different, so it’s important to get it right.

Disciplinary processes are used to address (and hopefully resolve) behavioural concerns – these are usually focused on HOW an employee is applying themselves to their job, and often involve some element of wrongdoing linked to a breach of a policy or process.

Performance management processes are concerned with WHAT an employee is doing in their job. It’s task focused and more specifically around lacking the skills and competencies required to fulfil the responsibilities.

It can be pretty clear which process to apply for some issues, such as:

  1. Hand in the till allegedly pocketing cash – disciplinary
  2. Unplanned and unexplained absence – disciplinary
  3. Poor quality workmanship requiring reworks – performance
  4. Errors / inaccuracy – performance
  5. Failed random drug test – disciplinary
  6. Failed to meet deadlines – performance

But what about concerns with unprofessional communication? Is that a skill deficit, and therefore a performance matter, or is it a case of bad attitude and therefore a behavioural concern?

The answer isn’t straight forward.  In curly situations like this, we recommend informal conversations with the employee first to really get to the crux of the issue, and from that, you will be better able to determine the right process to follow.


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