Capability vs Disciplinary – Case Study 2 – Suggestions to Combat Underperformance

Last week we introduced you to Karen, she has been underperforming for the last eight years with your company.  She is unsociable, intimidating, rude and fails to take responsibility for her actions.  This has led to numerous complaints from her peers, supervisors and managers, with one colleague threatening to resign as a result of Karen’s behaviour.

What action should you take to deal with Karen? What procedures should you invoke? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Conduct an informal interview with Karen in the first instance with the aim of getting to the root of the problem.  Ask her to explain why she is behaving the way she is – what are the underlying problems from her point of view
  • Gather evidence from other people – her colleagues, supervisors and managers.  In particular talk to the person that has threatened to leave, find out what has been going on and persuade them to stay by reassuring them that you are dealing with the problem
  • Get input from your HR department and consultants.  It can be very valuable to get input from someone who can look at the overall situation and be impartial.  The line manager cannot do the investigation and  decision making
  • Don’t let it go on too long – Karen’s manager may need help with performance reviews / dealing with staff issues
  • If all else fails invoke a formal disciplinary procedure including informal and written warning and dismissal if appropriate.

Capability vs Disciplinary – Case Study 2

This week we are bringing you another capability vs. disciplinary case study.  Meet Karen!

Karen has been working for your company for eight years and during this time has failed to be a team player which has had a marked effect on both her performance and those working with her.  The underlying problem with Karen’s performance is the way in which she interacts with her peers:

  • Karen will often refuse to speak to her colleagues
  • Karen fails to take responsibility for her actions and blames her colleagues for problems that she has caused herself
  • Karen has been known to have threatened and intimidated a number of her colleagues
  • Karen has singled out one member of staff in particular for not particular reason

Over the eight years you have built up quite a thick file on Karen including complaints from peers, supervisors and managers.  Recently you have received two complaints from managers in relation to Karen’s attitude to other members of staff and the upset she has been causing.  In addition you have received an email from one of Karen’s colleagues which concludes by saying -…I can’t work with Karen any longer, her petty behaviour is making my work life unbearable, I am going to have to leave?.

What action should you take in this case? What procedures should you invoke? Tune in next week for the answers…

Capability vs. Disciplinary – Case Study

Following on from Annabelle’s story last week… Both sides are now aggrieved – what is the solution?

  • Investigate Annabelle’s grievance thoroughly – is her grievance genuine and based on fact or is she manipulating the situation in order to hide or detract from the issues with her own performance?  Her employer must try and give her the benefit of the doubt but at the same time bring the issues with her performance to her attention in a constructive way and develop a suitable action plan that can help dispel the grievance situation for both parties.
  •  Give Brian some support to help with his management skills and ensure that an issue like this cannot recur in the future.
  •  Set up performance reviews for Annabelle.   Establish the causes of poor performance e.g. insufficient training, poor working relationships, lack of understanding, lack of motivation, poor attitude.  Pinpoint examples of where her performance is lacking, set clear performance expectations going forward and take positive steps to rectify the situation such as training and coaching.
  • If after all that is done and Annabelle problem is identified as one of attitude rather than aptitude then  speak to her about about disciplinary rather than capability management.  Hold an informal meeting in the first instance to ensure that she understands why her behaviour has been deemed unsatisfactory and agree steps to ensure that the behaviour does not recur.
  •  If informal warnings have not produced the desired result and Annabelle’s unsatisfactory behaviour continues, the next step is to conduct a thorough investigation invoke a formal disciplinary procedure, including written warnings, before heading down the route of dismissal.

Capability vs. Disciplinary – Case Study

In a recent blog we looked at performance management and how to distinguish between issues of capability and misconduct when dealing with the underperformance of employees.  To bring this issue to life we would like to introduce you to Annabelle.

Annabelle has worked as a marketing assistant in the marketing department of retail company for 3 years, during this time she has consistently underperformed, indeed underperformance was an issue from day one for Annabelle when she failed her probationary period.

Taking a proactive approach rather than instantly dismissing Annabelle, her employer provided some coaching.  This initially had a positive effect on her performance but unfortunately in recent months things have begun to slip again, she repeatedly, and frustrating for her manager, makes the same mistakes over and over, does not take guidance well, often has to have tasks explained to her several times and makes consistent inaccuracies in proposals  .

Now a major problem for her employer, Annabelle’s mistakes are costing them money and having a detrimental effect on the marketing team and business as a whole.  Annabelle’s manager is results driven, he feels she has been given an easy ride by the business and undertakes a formal review of her work.

On the flip side, Annabelle feels that she has not been supported by her employer, that she is not being properly managed and that she lacks coherent and consistent guidance.

Annabelle’s manager invites her to a meeting to discuss the on-going issues with her performance and although this meeting is handled in a professional manner, with legitimate concerns raised and examples of underperformance given, Annabelle feels bullied and raises a formal grievance against her manager.

Both sides are now aggrieved – what is the solution?


Check out next week’s blog for the solution to this problem.



Absence Management

It is estimated that unauthorised absence costs the UK economy around £10bn-£12bn every year with employees failing to come to work for no good reason an average of 8 days each.   With the Olympics just a few short weeks away, and an expected rise is unauthorised absence predicted it important that you plan ahead to avoid unauthorised absence.

To stay on top of unauthorised absence you must put in place thorough absence policy that includes how absence will be managed; states clearly what absence is and is not permitted; details of how absence will be recorded and monitored; reporting lines and disciplinary procedures.

When you suspect an employee is taking an unauthorised day off you should:

  • Make contact on day 1 to establish the reason for the absence
  • If you are not satisfied that the reason for absence is genuine follow up with a letter on day 2
  • If the employee does not make contact and remains absent from work without notice you may have cause to assume resignation and formalise the appropriate procedures
  • If the employee returns to work you should always conduct further investigation in order to prevent a similar absence from occurring in the future and where necessary invoke a formal disciplinary process
  • If an employee takes annual leave despite being previously refused you must contact them immediately in writing and again invoke a formal disciplinary process.

Having in place a robust absence management policy will reap long term rewards by: –

  • Identifying the causes of poor attendance.
  • Providing support.
  • Increasing loyalty and motivation.
  • Deterring casual absence.
  • Identifying problems at work.
  • Improving morale and motivation.
  • Leading to reduction in absence.
  • Improving productivity.