How to have tough talks at work

Public news

It is generally acknowledged that employers do not look forward to disciplinary meetings as they can be confrontational and employees often become quite emotional. This makes it especially important that members collect and assess any relevant information prior to any disciplinary meeting, and to make time to structure it so as to ensure a fair process is followed. It should not be regarded as a planned attack on the employee but rather an important stage of the investigation process which may result in a warning or even a dismissal.

The Workplace Relations Department of the MTA receives many calls from members requesting advice and assistance on how to discipline employees on performance or behaviour related issues. Unfortunately, in some instances, members have already taken action so it may be too late to rectify any deficiencies in the process followed.

Set out below are some guidelines on how to conduct an effective disciplinary meeting, the outcome of which is hopefully a positive change in performance and/or behaviour, unless of course the issue is serious enough to justify a termination of employment.

Preparation and Process:

  • Complete your investigation into the matter and ensure that any relevant documents are available and examined. This could include an employment contract/relevant policies or procedures/ job description/previous warnings/ evidence from other staff members/ or any other evidence.
  • It may be, depending on the circumstances, that the employee is suspended pending the completion of the investigation. If you suspend the employee, you must pay them.
  • Make arrangements on where and when your meeting will take place and who the participants will be. Allow the employee a support person if requested by the employee or if you have a policy which stipulates this.
  • Arrange for someone at the meeting to take notes.
  • At the meeting, explain the purpose of the meeting and clearly set out the details of the issue/s that have led to the meeting. It is important to try and be calm and rational in presenting the issues.
  • Following this explanation, ask the employee if they have anything in response to the matters raised. Do not try to interrupt or contradict the employee and note the response.
  • Respond to the points made by the employee and if necessary be prepared to briefly adjourn to consider any points raised by the employee which may need to be taken into account in any decision to be made. You must consider what the employee says. You cannot “pre-judge” anything.
  • If the decision is to issue a warning, inform the employee on what is expected or required of them in future and that any repeat will result in further disciplinary action which may include a termination of their employment. A written warning should be drafted and issued to the employee as soon as possible and a copy kept as an employment record.
  • Alternatively, if the performance or behaviour warrants a termination of employment, inform the employee of your decision and the reasons for it. The employer can also choose to briefly adjourn the meeting to confer and consider what action should be taken.
  • In the event of a termination, a written advice of the effective date of termination and the reasons must be forwarded to the employee. This can be sent out with their final payments.
  • Ensure that what has been said or what has occurred during the meeting and the outcome of it is well documented and retained for any future reference.
The MTA WR Department is in the process of developing a training course to assist members in holding these types of meetings and having those tough discussions. If you have an interest in attending this type of course, please let us know by clicking here. The new course is set to run in the New Year, keep an eye out for dates.