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A. Employee Separations

A. Discipline

As discussed in previous lectures, the term discipline refers to a condition in the organization where

employees conduct themselves in accordance with the organization’s rules and standards of acceptable. For

the most part employees discipline themselves by conforming to what is considered proper behavior

because they believe it is the reasonable thing to do. One they are made aware of what is expected of them,

and assuming they find these standards or rules to be reasonable, they seek to meet those expectations. But

not all employees will accept the responsibility of self-discipline. There are some employees that will

accept the norms of responsible employees’ behavior. These employees, then, require some degree of

extrinsic disciplinary action. It is this need to impose extrinsic disciplinary action that we will address in the

following sections.

I. Discipline System Recommended by Labor Department

A fair discipline process is based on three prerequisites: rules and regulations, a system of progressive

penalties, and an appeals process. Inform employees ahead of time as to what is and is not acceptable

behavior. Progressive penalties range from oral warnings to written warnings to suspension from the job to

discharge; the severity is a function of the severity of the offense and, in some cases, the number of times

the offense has occurred. Discipline guidelines include the need to determine whether there was “just

cause” for disciplinary action by (1) using discipline in line with the way management usually responds to

similar incidents; (2) warning the employee of the consequences of the alleged misconduct; (3) punishing for

violation of rules that are “reasonably related” to the efficient and safe operation of the work environment;

(4) investigating adequately; (5) applying rules and employee’s past history. Fairness is built into the system

of discipline without punishment in that the punitive nature of discipline is reduced while there is an

attempt to gain the employee’s acceptance of the rules.

II. Factors to Consider when Disciplining

Before we review disciplinary guidelines, we should take at the major factors that need to be considered if

we are to have fair and equitable disciplinary practices. The following seven contingency factors can help us

analyze a discipline problem:

1. Seriousness of the problem. How sever is the problem? As noted previously, dishonesty is usually

considered a more serious infraction than reporting to work 20 minutes late.

2. Duration of problem. Have there been other discipline problems in the past, and over how long a

time span? The violation dies not take place in a vacuum. A first occurrence is usually viewed

differently than a third or fourth offense.

3. Frequency and mature of the problem. Is the current problems part of an emerging or

continuing pattern of disciplinary infractions? We are continual with not only the duration but also

the pattern of the problem. Continual infractions may require but also the pattern of the problem.

Continual infractions may require a different type of discipline from that applied to isolated

instances of misconduct. They may also point out a situation that demands far more sever

discipline in order to prevent a minor problem demands far more severe discipline in order to

prevent a minor problem from becoming a major one.

4. Extenuating Factors. Are there extenuating circumstances related to the problem? The student

who fails to turn in her term paper by the deadline because of the death of her grandfather is likely

to have her violation assessed more leniently than will her peer who missed the deadline because he



5. Degree of socialization. To what extent has management made an earlier effort to educate the

person causing the problem about the existing rules and procedures and the consequences of

knowledge that the violator holds of the organization’s standards of acceptable behavior. In

contrast to the previous item, the new employee is less likely to have been socialized to these

standards than the 20-year veteran. Additionally, the organization that has formalized, written rules

governing employee conduct is more justified in aggressively enforcing

6. Violations of these rules than is the organization whose rules are informal or vague. History

of the Organization’s Discipline practices. How have similar infractions been dealt with in the past

within the department? Within the entire organizations? Has there been consistency in the

application of discipline procedures? Equitable treatment of employees must take into

consideration precedents within the unit where the infraction occurs, as well as previous

disciplinary actions taken in other units within the organization. ? Equity demands consistency

against some relevant benchmark.

7. Management Backing. If employees decide to take their case to a higher level in management,

will you have reasonable evidence to justify your decision? Should the employee challenge your

disciplinary action, it is important that you have the data to back up the necessity and equity of the

action taken and that you feel confident that management will support your decision. No

disciplinary action is likely to carry much weight if violators believe that they can challenge and

successfully override their manager’s decision.

How can these seven items help? Consider that there are many reasons for why we might discipline an

employee. With little difficulty, we could list several dozen or more infraction that management might

believe require disciplinary action. For simplicity’s sake, we have classified the most frequent violations into

four categories: attendance, on-the- job behaviors, dishonesty, and on the job behavior.

Attendance like: Unexcused absence, chronic absenteeism, leaving without permission

Work Performance problems can include action like not completing work assignments,

producing substandard products or services not meeting established production


Dishonesty and Related Problems like, Theft, Falsifying employment application,

Willfully damaging organizational property, Punching another employee’s time card,

Falsifying work records

On-the-job Behaviors like: Insubordination ,Smoking in unauthorized places, Fighting,

Gambling, Failure to use safety devices, Failure to report injuries, Carelessness, Sleeping on

the job, Using abusive or threatening language with supervisors, Possession of narcotics or

alcohol, Possession of firearms or other weapons, Sexual harassment,

Infractions may be minor or serious given the situation or the industry in which one works. For example,

while concealing defective work in a hand –power tool assembly line may be viewed as minor, the same

action in an aerospace manufacturing plant is more serious. Furthermore, recurrence and severity of the

infraction will play a role. For instance, employees who experience their first minor offense might generally

expect a minor reprimand. A second offense might result in a more stringent reprimand, and so forth. In

contrast, the first occurrence of a serious offense might mean not being allowed to return to work, the

length of time being dependent on the circumstances surrounding the violation.

III. Disciplinary Guidelines:

All human resource managers should be aware of disciplinary guidelines. In the section, we will briefly

describe them.

a. Make Disciplinary Action Corrective Rather than punitive. The objective is to correct an

employee’s undesirable behavior. While punishment may be a necessary means to that end,

one should never lose sight of the eventual objective.

b. Make disciplinary Action progressive. Although the type of disciplinary action that is

appropriate may vary depending on the situation, it is generally desirable for discipline to

be progressive. Only for the most serious violations will an employee be dismissed after a

first offense. Typically, progressive disciplinary action begins with a verbal warning and

proceeds through a written warning, suspension, and, only in the most serious cases,

dismissal. More on this in a moment.

c. Follow the “Hot-stove” Rule. Administering discipline can be viewed as analogous to

touching a hot stove (hence, the hot-stove rule).84 While both are painful to the recipient,

the analogy goes further. When you touch a hot stove, you get an immediate response; the

burn you receive is instantaneous, leaving no question of cause and effect. You have ample

warning; you know what happens if you touch a red-hot stove, you furthermore, the result

is consistent: every time you touch a hot stove, you get the same response you get burned.

In all, the result is impersonal; regardless of who you are, if you touch a hot stove, you will

get burned. The comparison between touching a hot stove and administering discipline

should be apparent, but let us briefly expand on each of the four points in the analogy.

The impact of a disciplinary action will be reduced as the time between the infraction and the penalty’s

implementation lengthens. The more quickly the discipline follows the offense, the offense, the more likely

it is that the employee will associate the discipline with the offense rather than with the manager imposing

the discipline. As a result, kit is best that the disciplinary process begin as soon as possible after the violation

is noticed. Of course, this desire for immediacy should not result in undue haste. If all the facts are not in,

managers may invoke a temporary suspension, pending a final decision in the case. The manager has an

obligation to give advance warning prior to initiating formal disciplinary action. This means the employee

must be aware of the organization’s rule and accept its standards of behavior. Disciplinary action is more

likely to be interpreted as fair by employees when there is clear warning that a given violation will lead to

discipline and when it is known that discipline will be. Fair treatment of employees also demands that

disciplinary action be consistent. When rule violations are enforced in an inconsistent manner, the rules lose

their impact. Morale will decline and employees will question the competence of management. Productivity

will suffer as a result of employee insecurity and anxiety. All employees want to know the limits of

permissible behavior, and they look to the actions of their managers for such feedback. The last

guideline that flows from the hot-stove rule is: keep the discipline impersonal. Penalties should be

connected with a given violation, not with the personality of the violator. That is, discipline should be

directed at what employees have done, not the employees themselves. As a, manager, you should make it

clear that violation personal judgments about the employee’s character. You are penalizing the rule

violation, not the individual, and all employees committing the violation can expect to be penalized.

Furthermore, once the penalty has been imposed, you as manager must make every effort to forget the

incident; you should attempt to treat the employee in the same manner as you did prior to the infraction.

IV. Disciplinary Actions (Progressive discipline)

As mentioned earlier, discipline generally follows a typical sequence of four steps: written verbal warning,

written warning, suspension, and dismissal. Let’s

briefly review these four steps.

a. Written Verbal Warning

The mildest form of discipline is the written

verbal warning. Yes, the term is correct. A

written, verbal warning is a temporary record of

a reprimand that is then placed in the manager’s

file on the employee. This written verbal

warning should state the purpose, date, and

outcome of the interview with the employee.

This in fact, what differentiates the written

verbal warning from the verbal warning. Because

of the need to document this step in the process,

the verbal warning must be put into writing. The

difference, however, is that this warning remains

in the hands of the manager; that is, it is not

forwarded to HRM for inclusion in the employee’s personnel file.

The written verbal reprimand is best achieved when completed in a private and informal environment. The

manager should begin by clearly informing the employee of the rule that has been violated and the problem

that this infraction has caused. For instance, if the employee has been late several times, the manager would

reiterate the organization’s rule that employees are to be at their desks by 8:00 A.M, and then proceed to

give specific evidence of how violation of this rule has resulted in an increase in workload for others and

has lowered departmental morale. After the problem has been made clear, the manager should then allow

the employee to respond. Is he aware of the problem? Are there extenuating circumstances that justify his

behavior? What does he plan to do correct his behavior?

After the employee has been given the opportunity to make his case, the manager must determine if the

employee has proposed an adequate solution to the problem. If this has not been done, the manager should

direct the discussion toward helping the employee figure out ways to prevent the trouble from recurring.

Once a solution has been agreed upon, the manager should ensure that the employee understands what, if

any, follow-up action will be taken if the problem recurs.

b. Written Warning

The second step in the progressive discipline process is the written warning. In effect, it is the first formal

stage of the disciplinary procedure. This is because the written warning becomes part of the employee’s

official personnel file. This is achieved by not only giving the warning to the employee but sending a copy

to HRM to be inserted in the employee’s permanent record. In all other ways, however, the procedure

concerning the writing of the warning is the same as the written verbal warning; that is, the employee is

advised in private of the violation, its effects, and potential consequences of future violations. The only

difference is that the discussion concludes with the employee being told that a formal written warning will

be issued. Then the manager writes up the warning-stating the problem, the rule that has been violated, any

acknowledgment by the employee to correct her behavior, and the consequences form a recurrence of the

deviant behavior-and sends it to HRM.

c. Suspension

A suspension or layoff would be the next disciplinary step, usually taken only the prior steps have been

implemented without the desired outcome. Exceptions-where suspension is given without any prior verbal

or written warning –occasionally occur if the infraction is of a serious nature.

A suspension may be for one day or several weeks; disciplinary layoffs in excess of a month are rare. Some

organizations skip this step completely because it can have negative consequences for both the company

and the employee. From the organization’s perspective, a suspension means the loss of the employee for the

layoff period. If the person has unique skills or is a vital part of a complex process, her loss during the

suspension period can severely impact her department or the organization performance if a suitable

replacement cannot be located. From the employee’s standpoint, a suspension can result in the employee

returning in a more unpleasant and negative frame of mind than before the layoff.

Then why should management consider suspending employees as a disciplinary measure? The answer is that

a short layoff is potentially a rude awakening to problem employees. It may convince them that

management is serious and may move them to accept responsibility for following the organization’s rules.

d. Dismissal

Management’s ultimate disciplinary punishment is dismissing the problem employee. Dismissal should be

used only for the most serious offenses. Yet it may be the only feasible alternative when an employee’s

behavior seriously interferes with a department or the organization’s operation.

A dismissal decision should be given long and hard consideration. For almost all individuals, being fired

from a fob is an emotional trauma. For employees who have been with the organization for many years’

dismissal can make it difficult to obtain new employment or may require the individual to undergo extensive

retraining. In addition, management should consider the possibility that a dismissed employee will take legal

action to fight the decision. Recent count cases indicate that juries are cautiously building a list of conditions

under which employees may not be lawfully discharged.

B. Employee Separations

I. Employee Separations

An employee separation occurs when an employee ceases to be a member of an organization. The rate of

employee separations in an organization (the turnover rate) is a measure of the rate at which employees

leave the firm.

a. The Costs of Employee Separations

There are always costs associated with employee separations. The cost may be more or less, depending on

whether managers intend to eliminate the position or to replace the departing employee. Costs included in

separations include: recruitment costs, selection costs, training costs, and separation costs.

1. Recruitment costs.

2. Selection costs.

3. Training costs.

4. Separation costs.

b. The Benefits of Employee Separations

While many people understand the costs of employee separations, there are benefits as well. Some of the

benefits of separations include: reduced labor costs, replacement of poor performers, increased innovation,

and the opportunity for greater diversity.

1. Reduced labor costs.

2. Replacement of poor performers.

3. Increased innovation.

4. Opportunity for greater diversity.

II. Types of Employee Separations

Employee separations can be divided into two categories based on who initiates the termination of the

employment relationship. Voluntary separations (quits and retirements) are initiated by the employee.

Involuntary separations (discharges and layoffs) are initiated by the employer.

a. Voluntary Separations

1. Quits.

2. Retirements.

b. Involuntary Separations

Involuntary separations occur when management decides to terminate its relationship with an employee due

to economic necessity or a poor fit between the employee and the organization.

1. Discharges.

2. Layoffs.

3. Downsizing and rightsizing. A reduction in the number of people employed by a firm

(also known as restructuring and rightsizing); essentially the reverse of a company growing and

suggests a one-time change in the organization and the number of people employed

III. Managing Early Retirements

When a company realizes that it needs to downsize its scale of operations, its first task is to examine

alternatives to layoffs. One of the most popular of these methods is early retirement.

The Features of Early Retirement Policies: Early retirement policies consist of

two features: (a) a package of financial incentives that make it attractive for senior employees to

retire earlier than they planned and (b) an open window that restricts eligibility to a fairly short

period. After the window is closed, the incentives are no longer available to senior employees.

Avoiding Problems with Early Retirements: Managing early retirement policies

requires careful design, implementation, and administration. When not properly managed, early

retirement policies can cause a host of problems. All managers with senior employees should make

certain that they do not treat senior employees any differently than other employees.

IV. Managing Layoffs

Generally, an organization will institute a layoff when it cannot reduce its labor costs by any other means.

Managers should first try to reduce labor costs with layoff alternatives.

Alternatives to Layoffs: There are many alternative methods of reducing labor costs that

management should explore before deciding to conduct a layoff. These alternatives include things

such as early retirements, employment policies (attrition and hiring freeze), job redesign (job

sharing), pay and benefits policies (pay freezes and cuts), training, and other voluntary workforce


1. Employment policies.

2. Changes in job design.

3. Pay and benefits policies.

4. Training.

5. Nontraditional alternatives to layoffs.

Implementing a Layoff: A layoff can be a traumatic event that affects the lives of thousands of

people, so managers must implement the layoff carefully. Issues that need to be considered include

how to notify employees, developing layoff criteria, communicating to laid-off employees,

coordinating media relations, maintaining security, and reassuring survivors of the layoff.

1. Notifying employees.

2. Developing layoff criteria.

3. Communicating to laid-off employees.

4. Coordinating media relations.

5. Maintaining security.

6. Reassuring survivors of the layoff.

V. Outplacement

Outplacement is a human resource program created to help separated employees deal with the emotional

stress of job loss and to provide assistance in finding a new job

The Goals of Outplacement:

The goals of outplacement reflect the organization's need to maintain employee productivity. The most

important of these goals are (1) reducing the moral problems of employees who will be laid off so that they

will remain productive; (2) minimizing the amount of litigation initiated by separated employees; and (3)

assisting separated employees in quickly finding comparable jobs.

Outplacement Services: The most common outplacement services provided to separate

employees are emotional support and job-search assistance. These services can help achieve the

goals of outplacement.

1. Emotional support.

2. Job-search assistance.

VI. The role of HR Department in employee separations and outplacement

Cooperation and teamwork characterize the relationship between managers and HR staff in the employee

separation process. HR staff can act as valuable advisers to managers, particularly in the dismissal process,

by helping them avoid mistakes that can lead to claims of wrongful discharge. They can also help protect

the employee whose rights may be violated by managers. Furthermore, they may assist in the development

of and/or selection of the contents of voluntary severance plans or buyouts, early retirement plans, and

outplacement services


Employee Separations An employee separation occurs when an employee ceases to be a member

of an organization.

Downsizing A reduction in the number of people employed by a firm (also known as

restructuring and rightsizing)

Outplacement A company procedure that assists a laid-off employee in finding

employment elsewhere

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