Supervisors have a tough job. One of the most important things they need to remember is to get all the facts before taking action on serious employment issues. The following actual example will clarify this point.
Acting before investigating
An employee reported to his supervisor that a co-worker had taken property from the University. The employee said that a police report of the incident - which happened while the supervisor was away from the workplace - existed. The supervisor promptly terminated the co-worker.
The terminated employee filed a grievance. At the first step of the grievance procedure, the employee told the supervisor that he hadnï¿½t stolen anything and that no police report had been filed. After this meeting, the supervisor called the police department, which confirmed that no report on this incident or on the employee in question actually existed. The supervisor inspected the inventory and found nothing missing. The supervisor then reinstated the employee.
What went wrong
The first mistake the supervisor made was believing a third party before checking out the facts of the situation. More importantly, the supervisor did not give the employee an opportunity to explain his side of the story before imposing the termination. In addition to enduring the embarrassment of admitting a serious mistake, the supervisor then had to confront the first employee about reporting inaccurate information.
Guidelines for wise decisions
Supervisors need to remember that they are never going to have all the facts, but they need to establish as much evidence about a situation as possible. They then must discuss the allegations with the employee to get his or her side of the story. In the law, this is called due process, and it is essential to defending any decisions made. If new information comes out in the discussion with the employee, then the supervisor needs to investigate further. The supervisor needs to gather as much firsthand knowledge as possible by asking lots of questions and probing for details before making disciplinary determinations.
It is rarely necessary for supervisors to make immediate disciplinary decisions on their own. Employee relations consultants in Human Resource Services or on your Human Resource service team are available to help you think through situations and take the essential steps to make objective and fair decisions.
ï¿½ Sharon Williams
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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors. It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually. If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us. Thank you.