Is a work situation about work/life balance, performance, or discipline?

Is a work situation about work/life balance, performance, or discipline?

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I’ve been in jobs where my struggle to get work done was treated like I had done something wrong. Instead of being helped to correct my situation, I was given warnings that were part of the disciplinary process. This is one of the reasons why I got into HR: I was still disciplined despite working hard.

Managers must determine whether a situation is a work/life balance challenge, performance issue, or disciplinary issue by investigating, reviewing, and defining the problem. Only then can the employee be given support or a warning.

Disciplining low-performing employees or employees with work/life balance challenges is incorrect. Training and support will help improve the organization’s culture and create happier employees.

Investigating the Situation

As an HR professional, I have spent much time investigating work situations. An investigator must be neutral and willing to make the hard decision when the facts are grey.

Speak to all parties involved separately. Let them speak and tell their story as they see it. Take good notes, or see if you can make some recordings.

Review the policy. This may be a situation where the policy needs to be updated or clarified. If there is an issue with the policy, you need to consider it and make the proper recommendations to change it.

You may have to review local, provincial (state), or federal legislation. Your policies must meet and follow the minimum standards.

If needed, seek guidance from legal counsel or HR specialists to ensure that the investigation process and subsequent actions adhere to best practices and legal requirements. Consulting with experts can provide valuable insights and help mitigate risks associated with the situation.

Maintain thorough documentation of the investigation process, including interview notes, policy reviews, legal research findings, and any other relevant information. Accurate and comprehensive documentation records the investigation’s steps and conclusions, which can be crucial in resolving disputes and demonstrating due diligence.

Reviewing the History of the Situation

Now that you have the facts about the current situation, you must review its history. This may be the first time this situation has arisen, but it could happen often.

If this situation has a history, review the facts of the previous times and the outcome. Were there any recommendations made that still need to be resolved? If it’s a known situation and the recommendations to solve it were not completed, then who is at fault may be apparent.

Defining the Current Situation

After gathering all necessary information and considering various factors, analyze the findings to determine the nature of the issue—whether it’s primarily a work/life balance challenge, a performance issue, or a disciplinary matter. This analysis should be based on objective criteria and supported by evidence gathered during the investigation.

Based on the identified issue, develop an appropriate action plan to address it effectively. This may involve providing support and accommodations to employees facing work/life balance challenges, implementing performance improvement measures for underperforming employees, or initiating disciplinary actions for misconduct or policy violations.

Work/Life Balance Challenge

Management can provide support and accommodations to help employees facing work/life balance challenges in several ways:

1. Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexible work schedules, such as alternative start and end times, compressed workweeks, or telecommuting options. This flexibility allows employees to better balance their work (Source: Deciding Between Remote Work and a Hybrid Office for the Future of WorkOpens in a new tab.. )commitments with personal responsibilities and obligations.

2. Paid Time Off and Leave Policies: Ensure employees can access sufficient paid time off, including vacation days, sick leave, and parental leave. Encourage employees to use their leave entitlements to prioritize self-care, relaxation, and family time.

3. Clear Communication: Maintain open and transparent communication (Source: Navigating Complex Business Litigation: Strategies for a Successful Outcome – Real Estate Law Corporation™. ) channels to discuss work/life balance issues openly. Encourage employees to voice their concerns and needs (Source: Strategies for Enhancing Employee Work-Life BalanceOpens in a new tab.. ) without fear of judgment or reprisal. Managers should actively listen to employees’ challenges and offer empathetic support.

4. Workload Management: Monitor workloads and deadlines to prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. (Source: How to Help Your Employees Find Their Flow – Hppy. ) Prioritize tasks and projects, delegate responsibilities when possible, and encourage realistic goal-setting to promote a healthy balance between work and personal life.

5. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Provide access to EAPs, which offer confidential counselling, mental health support, and resources to help employees cope with stress, anxiety, or other personal challenges affecting their work performance and well-being.

6. Training and Development: Offer workshops on time management, stress management, and work/life balance strategies. Equip employees with the skills and tools to (Source: Maximizing Customer Experience: How Consultants Modernize Client InteractionsOpens in a new tab.. ) prioritize tasks effectively, set boundaries, and manage their time more efficiently.

7. Supportive Workplace Culture: Foster a supportive and inclusive workplace culture that values work/life balance and respects employees’ boundaries. Lead by example by promoting work/life balance among managers and senior leadership, encouraging them to prioritize their well-being and set boundaries.

8. Recognition and Appreciation: Acknowledge and appreciate employees’ efforts and achievements, both professionally and personally. Recognize their dedication and hard work while emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal life. (Source: Fojt, M. (1999). Retail Insights ‐ Summer 1999. International Journal of Retail & Distribution ManagementOpens in a new tab.. )

9. Regular Check-Ins: Conduct regular one-on-one check-ins between managers and employees to discuss work progress, challenges, and any support or accommodations needed to address work/life balance issues. These check-ins provide opportunities for ongoing feedback and adjustments as needed.

By implementing these supportive measures and accommodations, management can help employees navigate work/life balance challenges more effectively, improving job satisfaction, productivity, and overall well-being.

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Performance Issue

Implementing performance improvement measures for underperforming employees requires a structured and supportive approach. Here’s how management can effectively address underperformance:

1. Identify Performance Gaps: Clearly define performance expectations and identify areas where the employee falls short. This may involve reviewing job descriptions, performance metrics, and feedback from supervisors, colleagues, and clients.

2. Provide Constructive Feedback: Schedule a private meeting with the employee to discuss performance issues constructively and non-confrontationally. Use specific examples to illustrate areas of concern and offer actionable feedback on improving performance.

3. Set Clear Goals and Expectations: Work collaboratively with the employee to set clear and achievable performance goals and expectations. Ensure that these goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) (Source: Steering the Ship: Commanding Top-Performing Insurance Teams. ) to provide a clear roadmap for improvement. Check out this book by S.J. ScottOpens in a new tab. (Paid Link) on Amazon about SMART Goals. 

4. Offer Training and Development Opportunities: Identify opportunities to help employees acquire the skills and knowledge (Source: The 4 Stages of Succession Planning: How to Prepare for Future Leadership – Twiser. ) needed to improve performance. This may include on-the-job training, workshops, mentoring, or coaching sessions.

5. Provide Ongoing Support and Guidance: Offer ongoing support and guidance to the employee throughout the performance improvement process. Be available to answer questions, provide resources, and offer encouragement as they work towards their goals. (Source: How to Help Your Child Set Goals for the School Year – City Girl Gone Mom.)

6. Monitor Progress Regularly: Schedule regular check-ins to monitor the employee’s progress toward their performance goals. These meetings provide feedback, track achievements, and address obstacles or challenges.

7. Offer Rewards and Recognition: Acknowledge and reward improvements in performance through verbal praise, written commendations, or other forms of recognition. Positive reinforcement can motivate the employee to continue (Source: Managing Low-Performing Employees in the Workplace to Excellence – SOAL TECHNOLOGIES. ) making progress.

8. Address Root Causes: Take the time to understand the underlying reasons for the employee’s underperformance. This may involve exploring factors such as lack of training, unclear expectations, personal issues, or job-related challenges. Addressing these root causes can help prevent future performance issues.

9. Document Performance Discussions: Keep thorough and accurate records of performance discussions, goals, and progress. Documenting these interactions can provide a clear record of the performance improvement process. It may be necessary for future reference or disciplinary actions if performance does not improve.

10. Follow Through with Consequences: If performance does not improve despite supportive measures, be prepared to follow through with appropriate consequences, such as additional training, reassignment of duties, or lateral moves. However, it’s essential to ensure that consequences are fair, consistent, and aligned with company policies and procedures.

By following these steps, management can effectively support underperforming employees in improving their performance and contributing positively to the organization.

Disciplinary Issue

Initiating disciplinary actions for misconduct or policy violations is a sensitive process that requires careful consideration and adherence to established procedures. Here’s how management can effectively handle disciplinary actions:

1. Review Company Policies and Procedures: Review the company’s policies and procedures related to misconduct or policy violations before initiating disciplinary action. Ensure you understand the behaviours or actions that constitute misconduct and the corresponding disciplinary measures outlined in the policies.

2. Gather Evidence: Collect evidence to support the misconduct or policy violation allegations. This may include witness statements, documentation of incidents, email communications, surveillance footage, or any other relevant information substantiating the claims.

3. Conduct a Fair Investigation: Conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the alleged misconduct or policy violation. Interview all parties involved, gather relevant facts and evidence and maintain confidentiality throughout the process. Following due process and allowing the employee to respond to the allegations is essential.

4. Consult with HR and Legal: Consult with HR professionals and legal counsel to ensure that (Source: Employee Handbooks Compliance | Jeremy EvelandOpens in a new tab.. ) the disciplinary process complies with company policies, employment laws, and regulations. They can guide the appropriate disciplinary measures based on the severity of the misconduct and the employee’s past performance and conduct.

5. Determine Appropriate Disciplinary Action: Based on the investigation findings and in consultation with HR and legal, determine the appropriate disciplinary action. This may include verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, demotion, or termination of employment, depending on the nature and severity of the misconduct.

6. Document Everything: Document all aspects of the disciplinary process, including the investigation findings, disciplinary actions taken, and communications with the employee. Keep thorough and accurate records to ensure transparency and accountability.

7. Communicate Clearly with the Employee: Schedule a private meeting with the employee to discuss the allegations, investigation findings, and disciplinary action. The employee has the right to invite their own support person or union representative to this meeting. Communicate the reasons for the disciplinary action, the expected behaviour moving forward, and any consequences for further misconduct.

8. Provide Support and Resources: Offer support to help the employee understand and address the issues that led to the misconduct. This may include counselling, training, or access to employee assistance programs (EAPs) to address underlying problems such as stress, conflicts, or personal challenges.

9. Follow Up and Monitor Progress: Follow up with the employee regularly to monitor their progress and (Source: All You Need to Know About Employee Warning Notices | CelayixOpens in a new tab.. ) adherence to the disciplinary measures. Provide feedback, guidance, and support to ensure compliance with company policies and expectations.

10. Maintain Consistency and Fairness: Ensure that disciplinary actions are applied consistently and fairly across all employees. Avoid any perceptions of favouritism or discrimination by treating similar misconduct cases with the same seriousness and applying appropriate disciplinary measures accordingly. Be sure to get the opinions of people who are peers of the person; consider gender, race, culture, age, and other diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) topics. Check out these DEI booksOpens in a new tab. (Paid Link) on Amazon for more info. 

By following these steps and principles, management can initiate disciplinary actions effectively while upholding fairness, transparency, and respect for all parties involved.

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What’s Next?

Communicate the outcomes of the investigation and any subsequent actions to all relevant parties clearly and transparently. Ensure that employees understand the reasons behind the decisions and any expectations moving forward.

Additionally, follow up regularly to monitor progress, provide support as needed, and address any further concerns.

By following these steps diligently, managers and HR professionals can conduct thorough investigations that help clarify workplace issues and guide appropriate interventions to support employees and maintain a healthy work environment.

For human resources support in Canada, click here to book a free HR needs assessment now. If you’re on a budget, consider joining my Patreon to ask unlimitedOpens in a new tab. HR questions. If you need HR advice sooner, book a consultation via Fiverr here.

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Is a Work Situation About Work/Life Balance, Performance, or Discipline?

Ian Hopfe

Ian Hopfe is the owner of LBH Business Services Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Ian is an Indigenous Human Resources Consultant. He has over ten years experience in HR and over fifteen years experience in management. All blog articles on this website are written by Ian unless a guest writer is indicated on the post.

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