Updated: May 7, 2022
I really hate to be negative at such a festive time of year, but the reality is that so many employers are tearing their hair out in the run up to the big day.
Let's be real, it's not Christmas that's the issue. It's the people! Christmas just add extra pressure to businesses trying to do 4 weeks work in 2 or simply trying to keep up with customer orders.
So in this week's blog I want to talk to you about managing disciplinaries in December.
Naturally, the processes are no different. But with limited management time and increased pressures from other sources, we sometimes have to take a slightly different approach to issues that come up this close to Christmas.
Christmas is not an excuse
This time of year, I hear a lot of people saying they don't want to discipline staff because it's Christmas time... prepare yourself for some real talk.
Disciplinaries are NEVER pleasant for the person opposite you at the table. If you look hard enough, you will always be able to find an excuse for not disciplining staff. It's their anniversary. Their dog had to go to the vet. It's their child's birthday. It's Christmas in 3 weeks time.
If you remove Christmas from the equation - would you be disciplining the employee for their actions? If the answer is yes, then Christmas is no reason to avoid it.
Gross Misconduct v Misconduct
If capacity to conduct a disciplinary process is the issue for you, I would be asking you two questions:
1️⃣ How serious is the allegation?
2️⃣ How close are we to closing down for the holidays?
I ask these questions because if the issue is serious as in, gross misconduct serious, you should not delay starting the process. Even if all you have time to do is issue the investigation notification letter, START THE PROCESS 👏
Unreasonable delays to disciplinary procedures can have a massive influence on the outcome and completely undermine the process. I get that it's not nice to tell someone they've been accused of bullying just before Christmas, but guess what...it's also not nice to bully people! 👎
If the issue is that of misconduct and less serious than bullying for example, you may well have time to deal with the issue before Christmas.
Lower level disciplinaries are generally quicker and easier to deal with because there are fewer allegations or less serious allegations to investigate and generally less evidence to gather. A disciplinary for poor timekeeping could easily be wrapped up in a week with no drama. 🎁
You also have the option with lower level issues to consider whether a full disciplinary process is even necessary. If this is a low level issue and first time offence for the employee, you would only need to have an informal chat with them and pop a note on their file. Even quicker and easier to sort out before Christmas!
Sure, you could leave the issues until after Christmas but, realistically, if you are made aware of an issue on 2 December, there's no reason to leave it until January. If you were made aware of an issue on your way out the door on 24 December, it would not be unreasonable to leave it until January depending of course on the allegations.
Shut down or working?
When we're thinking about whether to proceed with a disciplinary this side of all the wine and cheese, we also have to consider what the business is doing during this time.
Let's use an example, you know I love a hypothetical.
You have an allegation of harassment against an employee which has been brought up on 20 December. The business is closing down for Christmas on 24 December and most of the team are on holiday this week as well. The employee in question is working up to 24 December but the person accusing them is on holiday.
As the two employees are not going to be working together this side of Christmas, I would not consider suspension until the New Year when you can review the working situation between the two employees. I would issue the investigation letter to the alleged employee this week and notify them that the issue will be picked up in the New Year. I would get as much set up ready to go for the investigation as possible. The business shut down would be considered a reasonable delay in the process.
Same issue as above, but there is no shut down over Christmas.
If there is no shut down over Christmas, it's business as usual. Consider whether suspension is required if the two employees can't be separated at work and then get crack-a-lacking with the investigation. There is no reason, other than potential employee holiday, to delay the process.
I think you get my point with this - I'm not saying that you can't hold fire until after Christmas to discipline staff. However, you need to check your reasons for doing so and consider whether it is a reasonable cause for delaying the process, or is it that you're worried about looking like the Grinch?