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HR 101 – Maintain Control of Your Staff – Part 2

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice Requirements.

I must admit that writing this particular article has taken me down memory lane and some of the most bizarre experiences, in terms of staff who just do not want to co-operate and who are in turn often mismanaged. Just this year alone I have had more than half a dozen incidents where the employer has turned to me in absolute frustration and said “I know that I have allowed this to carry on far too long, but . . .”. Sadly it has cost them all – dearly, not only in fees to pay me and then my HR specialist who had to be consulted in terms of dismissal and in some instances even representing them at the CCMA, but also in their own time that was wasted in trying to sort this out.

Some more examples of what staff do (or don’t do in certain instances), when they are not properly controlled and managed are, (but not limited to):

• Refuse to carry out instructions. Often staff will pay ‘lip service’ to an instruction that you give them. To outward appearances they have ‘bought into’ what you have asked them to do and you go about your business thinking that your instruction has been carried out only to find out later (and often when it is too late and the damage has been done) that the instruction was in fact not carried out. This particular issue is worse than when the employee, straight out refuses to carry out an instruction – at least that way you know where you stand. Here’s the thing though, in both of these instances this is grounds for dismissal and it needs to be dealt with immediately, especially if you have other employees who are watching to see what will happen. The employee needs to be verbally cautioned about the fact that they are ‘refusing’ to follow a reasonable instruction and that this could lead to a disciplinary which in turn could lead to their dismissal. If they still refuse to perform the task, disciplinary action should be taken. In the instances where the employee has just not performed the task that they were instructed to, disciplinary action should also be taken – obviously this will not help the situation as you will still be sitting with the consequences of not having had something done, but it will send out a very clear message. Remember by doing nothing, the message that you are sending out is that this is acceptable behaviour and that makes it all the more difficult to control the next time around. Furthermore you are in all probability setting a precedent and if you don’t discipline the first person you cannot discipline the next one that does it. That would be considered ‘unfair practice’.

• A personal favourite of mine – it’s sure to send me crazy, is when staff do the work but then don’t check what they have done! Man oh man, that does it to me every time. For me it is indicative of a person who is doing the bare minimum to get by, someone who is not proud of their work or someone who just does not give a damn and quite honestly, I believe that we can all do without people like that in our lives. If I have to check everything that staff do before it goes out then quite frankly I may as well do it myself. One of the quickest and easiest ways to control this type of person is by means of a ‘check list’ for the task. The last thing on the list should be ‘check and double check your work’ – make them sign off on that and that record will ensure that they remain on the straight and narrow and if they don’t, you will have evidence showing that they have not completed the task correctly. Make sure that they sign for each step and this will make them a lot more careful. Again, any deviation or variation on the procedures must be dealt with immediately to ensure that it does not reoccur.

Next week we will have a look at some more examples of what employees get up to when they are not effectively managed.