HR Tip: Making notes in disciplinary hearings

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Question: "In a disciplinary interview I find it difficult to listen and write at the same time. We are a small organisation and the only people I could bring in to take notes are not exactly reliable. Any suggestions?"

HR Tip: I am concerned that you say you have nobody who is reliable. If you choose to have someone in to take notes, make clear to them that they are not to take sides but rather record exactly what was said and done and give a copy to each party. However it is not difficult for you to listen and write – just don't do both at the same time. Do what they do in court.

Listen to a little of what the employee has to say then tell him to wait while you note it. Then tell him to continue a little more – and so on. You are in charge of the meeting and can tell the employee when to speak and when to shut up. These pauses, by the way, can give you time to think as you go along and can also calm down an emotional employee. Try it.

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30th Mar 2007 16:06

At a Tribunal I was involved in 2 or 3 years ago we were questioned by the Chairman as to why we had not keep records of breaks and any conversation that had taken place during those breaks.

Ever since then I have got my managers to keep records of any breaks and any conversation that has taken place during those breaks.

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30th Mar 2007 10:08

Making notes is a key part of any meeting that has any shade of "disciplinary" associated with it.

While I do not suggest following the apocryphal civil service practice of writing the minutes before the meeting, there are a number of key points you will want to cover. It may be worthwhile having the structure of the discussion sketched out to make sure you cover all the points.

I suggest you always send a copy of your notes to the other party just to ensure fairness.

I would also recommend that if there is the faintest possibility of a claim of sexual or physical harassment you take a chaperone with you.

Any disciplinary hearing is an opportunity to communicate, quietly and clearly, that the organization is unhappy with the person's behaviour.

Be fair, be seen to be fair but be firm.

Good luck!

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02nd Apr 2007 23:26

I appreciate much of your employment law and practice is very different from New Zealand, but I would have thought once it is decided this is a discipline meeting, a few more steps must be followed:
1. The staff member to be interviewed should be given a clear idea of what the meeting is about...preferably in writing.....before the meeting.
2. It should be a recommendation they bring a representative if they wish.
3. You should always have a note taker with you.....at least someone of the same seniority as yourself to avoid embarrassment and possible conflict. Their job must be clearly spelt out, that they take notes only........and when it comes to the explanations, word for word.
4. If they bring a representative, then they take their own notes. I only offer a copy of notes if they come on their own.
5. I don't agree about taking your own notes. The key to any successful discipline meeting is to let the staff member speak as freely as possible, while you remain free to observe not just the words but the body language. Stopping to take notes breaks your concentration. Of course you keep an eye on your note taker, and when they need things to slow down, do so.

If the above is not clear, then remember a discipline meeting takes place only when you have had some previous discussions and the change you required has not occurred.........or the matter is sufficiently serious first off that a likely outcome could be dismissal. To label initial meetings as "disciplinary" could lead to people having a lawyer or union rep present every time we question performance.

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