Disciplinary Action Decision
An insight into the case allows outlining the major issue which Mary Jones is facing with regards to the employee management and discipline. The case dwells upon a particular situation in which Mary is deemed to take a decision on the possible disciplinary action against an employee John Smith, who was found to be taking damaged equipment from Tracey Electronics (TE) and repairing it for further resale to smaller competitors. Mary Jones recently joined the company with several challenges, which determine the complexity of her work. First of all, she is the first female general manager at TE, which places her in a vulnerable and, even sensitive position, and demands tough decisions. Secondly, the predecessor of Mary demonstrated the lack of “strong hand” in management of the disciplinary issues in his departments. Finally, Mary Jones was convinced that the failure to address the issue with John Smith, well known to the employees and management of the organization, will undermine her authority within the organizational hierarchy. With the above in mind, the new General Manager decided to contact the HR consultancy for specific guidance on the procedures and implementation of the disciplinary action against John Smith, including possible dismissal as an alternative in a given situation.
Employee discipline in general is a difficult experience in management and leadership practices. Constructive and accurate approach to the management of individual performance and disciplinary issues is critical for the success of the company and sustainability of its organizational culture (Millmore 2007). It is important to realize that, even when certain behaviors and performance elements can be considered a common sense and knowledge, all the employee-employer relationships should be built upon a robust guiding principles, Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) and rules. These documents and policies are able to create a critical set of expectations and standards, on the basis of which the company is able to control employees´ performance and apply disciplinary actions. It is evident from the case, however, that TE demonstrates negligent attitude towards building on the above mentioned element of organizational structure and, thus, leaving the question of the John Smith behavior more complex. Given the lack of guidelines and rules with regards to the reutilization of the organizational assets by the employees, Mary will be obliged to start with the basic outline of the general organizational principles with regards to such issues.
Looking at the specific process outline of the Human Resource Management (HRM) disciplinary action, the General Manager will have to start with the development and organization-wide communication of the General Principles and Standards of the company´s asset management. The objective is to ensure that all the employees are aware of the rules, applicable in this regard. This step will ensure that any disciplinary action, taken against an employee has a constructive nature and is based upon clearly set and outlined expectations, known to the employees. Once the communication is done, the General Manager will not be able to refer to the past actions of the company´s employees. In other words, Mary will not be able to apply disciplinary action to John Smith with regards to the previous sales of the damaged products and will be obliged to observe the situation and apply actions only in case of repetition of such behavior as from the moment new General Principles and Standards are effective. The decision on the disciplinary action should be always a subject to the good will of an employer to improve employee´s behavior rather than punish inappropriate attitude (Grote 2006). Management and leadership are highly dependent on the reputation of the individuals with people management authority among other employees of an organization. With that in mind, it is necessary that Mary Jones takes an action with regards to the John Smith behavior, but only once the standards and expectations are known to this employee and broken by him (Armstrong and Baron, 2002). Under any circumstances, the disciplinary action should consider two critical principles: clear and accurate feedback to the employee, outlining the source of the in satisfaction and provision of an opportunity to correct the wrongdoing, based on the company´s policy.
In the case, Mary decides to pursue an alternative of the disciplinary action, she will have to follow the standard procedure, which involves, but not necessarily limited to several elements. First of all, John Smith will have to receive an oral warning with regards to the breakage of the company’s policy on asset management. This waning should come along with the face-to-face discussion between the direct manager and the employee and focus on the reasons of an oral warning, expectations for future behavior and consequences of non-compliance with the company policy. Secondly, in case of failure to correct the behavior and repetitive use of company´s product for re-sale, Mary can prepare a written warning, which will outset the company´s policy and describe the work rule violation. It is important that the second stage of the disciplinary process refers to the previous actions, taken by the management to help John Smith with management of the issue. Further steps, which can be taken by Mary with regards to John Smith behavior, depend on the response of this employee to the warning. In the situation, where John Smith corrects his actions and will not repeat an asset re-sale operation will allow finalize the disciplinary action and consider the behavioral issue solved. Should John Smith, however, ignore the warning and outline of the behavioral expectations, Mary will have several alternatives. First of all, it is possible to apply demotion to lower classification, reduction of pay within a given class or dismiss John Smith. This choice will remain with the General Manager. It is important to remember that any of the above actions should be preceded by the suspension without pay procedure, communicated to John Smith in a written form and with a clear outline of the reasons for suspension and previous actions, taken by the company and the period of the suspension (Rao 2004).
The analysis of the case allows making several major assumptions and conclusions with regards to the decision on the disciplinary action, which was taken by the new General Manager. Mary states that in order to effectively manage and enter to the position of the organizational leader, a “stern action” should be taken against John Smith. Several arguments can support as well as a question the timeliness and effectiveness of this action. On one side, it is evident that John Smith takes advantage of his position in the manufacturing department and inappropriately uses the assets and products of the company. This behavior can not only jeopardize the profitability of the company, but significantly damage the image of TE in the external environment, among suppliers, customers and other stakeholders. Secondly, one can argue that there is no need to explain the damaging consequences of such actions for the company and John Smith surely realizes them. These factors help justifying the disciplinary action decision, taken by Mary. On the other hand, there are several legal and ethical limiting constructs, which must be factored into the decision, taken by Mary. First of all, John Smith has been working for the company for over ten years and none of the predecessors of Mary Jones took the necessary action to stop John Smith from reselling the products, even though his actions came to the knowledge of the organizational management. Secondly, there is no clear Standard Procedure or Code of Conduct in place, which outlines the principles and desired behavior at TE. With that in mind, employees´ performance appraisal and measurement are done with lack of coherency and expectations (Boxhall and Purcell 2011). The above allows arguing that an employee cannot be punished for an action, which was not prior communicated and outlined to him as inappropriate. Considering the fact that Mary has recently assumed her new role, she must be very attentive and accurate in a way the discipline and performance management is approached in the company, as her stern actions may negatively affect individual motivation and effectiveness of the company in general. The commitment, which the new General Manager made, to increase profitability, is highly dependent on the human factor. Buy-in and loyalty of the manufacturing and other teams, therefore, make a significant contribution to the ability of Mary Jones to deliver on the commitment. That said; sensitivity of the situation, lack of clarity in the employee performance appraisal and Code of Conduct outline the risk and inconsistency, associated with the disciplinary action alternative.
Mary Jones is a new comer in the TE. In spite of her leading role within the organization as a General Manager, she is still a subject to organizational culture, values and dynamics. An insight into the background of the position and Mary Jones professional experience allow arguing that Mary is facing several challenges, associated not only with the operational and disciplinary issues within the company, but also related to organizational diversity and culture. Mary´s ability to face and respond to these challenges will to a great extend determine her success and effectiveness in a new role within the TE.
One of the difficulties, which potentially drive the decision and may influence Mary in the future, is the lack of gender diversity at TE. The case states that Mary has assumed the role of General Manager as the first female leader of the company. This creates a set of expectations and may drive organizational resistance on different levels of hierarchy due to the lack of “previous experience” among employees. It is necessary that Mary evaluates the impact of her stern actions on the employees and their perception of her as the organizational leader. Organizational culture is a strong element that drives internal bonds and creates loyalty and the change of this culture is a complex and time consuming process, which cannot be done in one day. Sharp and radical actions from a management perspective, such as firing an employee, which spent over ten years with the company, can have destructive consequences.
Another important factor, influencing the decision-making process of the General Manager is the commitment to performance management objective and profit targets specifically. Mary realizes that profitability of the organization is linked to the effectiveness of the management of internal resources and “waste” reduction and the behavior of John Smith severely jeopardizes these elements. The decision on disciplinary action, taken by Mary, therefore, is influenced by this understanding as it is evident that ‘leakage” of damaged products from the manufacturing department contributes to lower profit margins.
Analyzing the factors, which influence the decisions and behavior of the General Manager, it should be taken into consideration that experience and personal goals of Mary also contribute towards the manner in which she approaches the problem. It is seen from the case that Mary does not possess an extensive managerial exposure, but over the short career in people management roles, she demonstrated herself as tough, but fair manager. These qualities, however, come along with the lack of practical experience in conflict and organizational change management (Stenzel and Stenzel 2003). With that in mind, the decisions, taken by Mary can at times be subject to short-term thinking and immediate action, rather than long-term planning of cultural change in the company.
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