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I’M NOT SURE ABOUT THE PRACTICES IN OTHER COUNTRIES.  But here in the Philippines, I still encounter people asking questions on who should personally handle employee discipline, including the unsavory act of firing erring workers. True, employee discipline is an unpleasant task, but it doesn’t mean that HR should take the brunt, if only to take the dirty job away from line managers who have no backbone to do it.

The role of HR is basically a staff function with the responsibility of giving professional advice to line management executives. In Management 101, HR as a staff authority has a special task that includes studying and sharing of industry best practices, giving advice, and making recommendations to line executives within the same organization. HR, like the finance department, will have the same staff authority to coordinate with line executives on which accounting forms to use to facilitate the release of budget and eventual purchase of certain equipment or services.

Even without this theoretical underpinning, it is unthinkable, unwise, if not impractical for an HR department head to discipline all erring workers, while their line bosses whistle their way around until the next potentially problematic worker comes in. Let me tell you this once again. Problem employees and employees with problems are created by problem managers.

If only these line executives are qualified to perform their job of personally nurturing and motivating their workers, like a green thumb gardener (as opposed to a lumberjack), then there should be no disciplinary issue that could reach HR.

People managers don’t have much choice but to personally manage the conduct and behavior of their employees. There’s no other way, if they want to remain part of the management team. HR may come in to hold the hand of the concerned line executive, but the latter must still play an active and strategic role.

To make everything runs smoothly, HR and the line department must study the applicable policy, rediscover established precedents (or exceptions) and more importantly to observe both substantive and procedural due process. HR may only be present to support the line executive in issuing the charge memo and guide both parties (the boss and erring worker) on the proper procedure.

HR’s presence in the disciplinary process is helpful, if only to ensure that the worker is given his full day in court. Therefore, HR must remain objective and neutral in the entire process to secure the trust of the worker.

Remember that the higher purpose of employee discipline is to correct unwarranted behavior and therefore must be personally managed by the concerned line supervisors and managers.

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This article first appeared in Rey Elbo’s advice column “In the Workplace” in the Jan 26, 2018 issue of BusinessWorld. Image credit goes to iForex Blog.


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