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Dear Workforce What Should I Do When a Disciplined Employee Tells Other Workers Her Story?

A Dear Reluctant:

The first piece of advice I would offer in this situation is not to make yourteam aware of another employee’s discipline plan and/or issues, despite howtempted you might be to defend yourself. When dealing with employee discipline,it is very important that you stay focused on your role as a manager and not getsidetracked by gossip and/or innuendo that may be circulating among your team.

Since this employee is obviously having some difficulties, I assume that “tellingher side of the story” is an example of the inappropriate or distractingbehavior that is contributing to her not doing the job. Don’t feed thatbehavior or let it distract you — it might be the very thing that she wants.

As a manager, the discussions that you have with an employee must be kept inconfidence. Remember, how you handle this situation is being watched by the restof the team. Despite the fact that your team is small and you might be temptedto explain your actions, doing so will undermine their sense of trust theseemployees have in you. For instance, an employee might wonder: “If he issharing this with the team, will he share issues that I bring to him?” Myguess is that your team is already well aware of this employee’s poorperformance.

Here are five suggestions for handling this situation:

  1. Meet with the disciplined employee privately and review expected behavior,as it relates to the job and her performance improvement plan. It is unclearfrom your question what steps you have taken, but it is important that you giveher very specific performance expectations and a specific timeframe for makingchanges.
  2. Stay close to this employee and meet with her regularly to review herprogress. You should make your HR department aware of the situation and be clearon what the disciplinary steps are for your organization. For your ownprotection, document everything.
  3. Gently confront the employee with what you are hearing and let her knowthat her comments need to stop. Give her a strong message that this behavior isunacceptable and distracting to the team. Focus on expectations — be clear onwhat is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Remember, as a manager, your roleis to coach this employee and guide her.
  4. If necessary, review performance expectations with the entire team(including the disciplined employee) as well. Perhaps it is time to give them apep talk and reinforce positive behavior.
  5. Bottom line, it may be time to let this employee go. Ultimately, your teamwill be grateful and respect the fact that you took action. The team needs tosee you as someone who corrected an uncomfortable situation, while stillrespecting the dignity of the employee. That is the strongest message that youcan give to your team.

SOURCE: Dr. Joan Luciano, Managing Consultant, Drake BeamMorin, Albany, NewYork, Jan. 25, 2002

LEARN MORE: Positive Discipline: Sending the Right or Wrong Message?

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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