A. Employee Separations
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
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
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.
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
6. Violations of
these rules than is the organization whose rules are informal or vague.
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.
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.
like: Unexcused absence, chronic
absenteeism, leaving without permission
Performance problems can include
action like not completing work assignments,
producing substandard products or services not meeting
• Dishonesty and
Related Problems like, Theft,
Falsifying employment application,
Willfully damaging organizational property, Punching another
employee’s time card,
Falsifying work records
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
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
III. Disciplinary Guidelines:
All human resource managers should be aware of disciplinary
guidelines. In the section, we will briefly
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
3. Downsizing and rightsizing. A reduction in the number of
people employed by a firm
(also known as
essentially the reverse of a company growing and
suggests a one-time change in the organization and the number of
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.
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 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.
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.
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
• The Goals of
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
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
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
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
Outplacement A company
procedure that assists a laid-off employee in finding