I’m the human resource manager of a small restaurant business. Our problem is the competence of our supervisors, in particular the case of Supervisor Dave (not his real name) who has a direct report who was found to have committed a serious offense. The same policy requires that the violator be dismissed after due process. However, Dave refuses to initiate disciplinary proceedings. Instead, he claims that the job belongs to the HR department. Of course, having read many of your articles, I know that employee discipline is the job of line supervisors and not HR, a management staff department. How do we coerce Dave and other similarly-situated supervisors to do their job? — Exasperated.
A man returned to his car in a parking lot and found a note under the windshield wiper. The note read as follows: “I just smashed the rear portion of your expensive car. It was an accident. And I’m sorry for it. The people who witnessed the collision are watching me. They probably think that I am writing down my name and contact details. I am not. I am only playing by their perception. The witnesses are wrong. And by this time, they must have left this place.”
There was nothing more written on the note.
Just like Dave, there are many people around us who think they can have their cake and eat it as well. They want a responsible job for the pay but they refuses to do their job to its fullest. Indeed, there is a big difference between a line and staff function under Management 101.
Line supervisors, managers and other executives must have the responsibility of performing the actual job of hiring, retaining, coaching, motivating, counseling and if all these prove to be futile, implementing the hateful job of terminating erring workers.
On the other hand, HR must perform the job of offering internal expertise in people management, providing a clear corporate policy to all line executives on how to hire, motivate, and discipline workers. HR has the responsibility of being the internal consultant to guide all people managers on the right way to do the job, but do not have to personally perform such tasks.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again here. Those who hold the ultimate right to hire an employee have the same, unadulterated right to discipline the same employee. And that includes performing the actual job of writing the Notice to Explain (NTE), receiving the employee’s written explanation, evaluating its contents, and making a firm decision to dismiss, through a final management decision or judgment.
What is important is the requirement that all supervising executives follow the procedural and substantive aspects of due process as required by labor law and other social legislation. Not only that, corporate executives must also observe the specific terms and conditions of your company’s policy and procedures.
Towards this end, HR must give proper advice to line executives on how to better perform such tasks in compliance with the law. HR may prescribe the template of the forms needed to make it easy for the supervisors concerned.
The rule for HR is to create more HR leaders who must act properly within the bounds of the law.
Despite all this, there are times that certain supervisors may still refuse to perform the dirty job of disciplining people. Many times, we have encountered line supervisors and managers who refuse to dismiss their workers due to possible serious repercussions like death threats and becoming unpopular with other workers.
To make it palatable for all, I recommend that henceforth, you initiate the formation of a management committee composed of all department heads to receive and decide on matters involving important worker-related action including promotions, demotions, transfers, and terminations.
Of course, not all issues may be elevated for the action of the management committee or Mancom. It depends on the seriousness of the personnel action and the personal circumstances of the concerned employee. One example is a contentious promotion to management level disputed by a junior hard-working employee and a more senior employee who is otherwise deadwood.
Also, Mancom may also consider evaluating the wisdom of an employee transfer to a not so-juicy position that may be perceived to be an act of union suppression or other related concerns.
But in cases of termination, Mancom must always be there to evaluate and decide on the case while taking a hard look at the circumstances to protect the company’s interests.
Thus, the NTE and other formal notices to the concerned employee must have the signature of all Mancom members.
In your case, if Supervisor Dave still refuses to perform his job, then you may convene an ad hoc committee to decide on their two cases: One, the case of the erring employee. And two, the case of Dave for refusing to do his job. Clearly, this is neglect of duty. Find out the correct definition of neglect of duty in your Code of Conduct and do whatever is necessary to emphasize the fact with other supervisors.
ELBONOMICS: If you’re working like a chicken, you’ll sound like a chicken.
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