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HR’s Role in Fixing Poor Workplace Behavior

Submitted by  on December 16th, 2010

A day in the life of a human resources officer! Here is a HR staffer being challenged with one manager arriving after 10.00 am each day. The recalcitrant manager makes no attempt to make up for lost time. In addition, the lateness seems to be caused by some personal problems as they were often seen shedding tears with the business owner. Employee morale is bottoming as a result. The HR officer wanted to approach the owner of the business to get this issue sorted? What should she do?

Here is my preferred strategy. First off, ensure that the required attendance is clearly stated in writing and communicated to the late-coming manager. Also ensure that there exists a documented process for escalating poor performance and behavior issues. Very briefly, the process usually begins with an informal warning to the employee, then progresses to a formal warning with agreed performance or behavior goals and ends with formal termination of the employee. Most times, the employee gets back on track before the final step.

Early on in the disciplinary process, find out the underlying reasons for the employee’s persistent late arrival. Their behavior may be due to personal problems they are facing in their life. If so, then during the disciplinary interview their manager will need to explore options for possibly accommodating the employee in the interim whilst they deal with their problems.

In addition, the employee’s manager will need to advise them on how to use the company’s internal or external counselling services. Notice the central role that the employee’s manager has in this process. The role of HR is not to “fix” employee performance or behavior problems. It is to set up the systems and resources needed for managers to do their job.

The HR officer’s situation also seems to be complicated with two further factors:

  1. A laissez faire organizational culture in which poor performance and behavior is tolerated.
  2. The favoritism shown by the owner towards an employee.

If this is the case, then her organization will need to deal with these wider systemic issues if the owner wants performance and employee behaviors to improve in the longer term.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you deal with the challenge? What advice would you give?

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Posted in Change, Communication, Performance | Comments (2)

2 Responses to “HR’s Role in Fixing Poor Workplace Behavior”

  1. Valu Says:

    Hi Leslie. This comment is part of my Business Ethics Assignment.

    In your last statement you mentioned, have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you deal with the challenge? What advice would you give? Before I make an answer to questions you have provided, I would like to say I totally agree with the situation declared in this blog about HR’s role in fixing workplace behaviour. In every organisation they have a code of conduct and a code of ethics that aims at guidance to employees on the standard of behaviour required of them and a basis for more detailed codes that may be required to meet the particular circumstances of the individual organisation. Now we look for discipline in employees to see if they comply with the code of conduct or code of ethics. For employees who comply with the code of conduct, they are in line with the organisation’s guidelines, which mean they are alright. But for those who abuse the code of conduct, they might be faced with the organisation’s policy; either demote, fire or warning letter. Apart from good work performance, there is one factor that measures employee’s credibility in discipline. Being late to work is one of the main grounds of indiscipline. There are various reasons as to why a person gets late to work, some of them being oversleeping, traffic jam and everyday morning chores. Lots of people lose their job because of reporting late to work. Now we should realize that securing your job becomes very significant, as the management will tolerate.

    Firstly, you mentioned one manager arriving after 10am each day and he makes no attempt to make up for time lost. A cause of being late to work is a personal problem. Yes, I have been in a similar situation, but as a follower, not as a leader or manager. But I was not coming late to work each day, but late due to a family emergency matter. This is a poor attitude towards works obligation, especially for a manager as she/he is a coach and also a role model for the team. The problem is worse when it is a manager who is late to work. I noted here it is also a poor example drawing from manager to employees who show poor leadership and followers will follow what the leaders did. This will cause lost productivity that affects profits of a business and damages employee’s morale. It happens in organisations now a days, even in the Ministry of Government I am currently working in now. We knew in every organisation there is a set up time for employees to be at work in the morning. For our Ministry, we start at 8:30am and all employees must be at work at or before 8:30am to punch their time sheet card before they go to their respective desk for starting work for the day. Those who will come late will make contact to inform their supervisors that they will be late to work or get late approval from their manager.

    Secondly, you mentioned, how did you deal with the challenge? To deal with the challenge if I am a HR staffer, I will be nice and be positive in handling employees by greeting politely and grab a chance to talk to her/him privately. I will allow time for employees to have a say why she/he’s coming late to work, then emphasize what I am expecting from him/her. Also highlight the consequence he/she will face with that is a disapproval notice, verbal warning, written warning, and suspension or dismissal. We need to look at workplace relationship. An employee shall establish co-operative workplace relations based on consultation and communication. For example, in the blog the employee’s manager will need to advise them on how to use the company’s internal or external counselling services. An employee shall ensure the workplace is free from discrimination and recognises the diverse background of employees. For example, two factors that are complications for HR officers are poor performance and behaviour is tolerated and favouritism of owner towards an employee.

    Thirdly, what advice would you give? As mentioned in the blog regarding that the required attendance is clearly stated and communicated to the late coming manager. This is true as it is good communication to go through step by step to the final step for late coming to the workplace. Training on the code of conduct and ethics to be conducted as a refresher and emphasize to all employees a requirement to be punctual and commit to work’s obligation. We need to avoid tolerating coming late to work as it indicates a poor performance and behaviour. The owner should avoid favouritism towards an employee, as this shows as a biased decision. The owner should strictly apply punishment, as this will improve the performance of employees. Those who have the attitude of a late worker should report to the management and they will decide whether it is best to keep on a worker who is incapable of turning up on time and doing their work to the best of their ability or if it would be best to hire a reliable worker. As I mentioned above, training is very much needed for the whole organization and all participants to bring a true example of why people are coming late to work and how to avoid coming late to work. Because participants will learn from each other by example. Employees shall avoid behavior which might endanger or cause distress to their colleagues or otherwise contribute to disruption of the workplace. Employees shall act with care and diligence.

    To conclude, I strongly agree that HR’s role in fixing poor workplace behavior. The role of HR is not to fix employee performance or behavior problems. It is to set up the system and resources needed for manager to do their job.


    Arina Nikitina in Time Management. Goal Setting Guide, website:
    Leslie Allan (2010). HR’s Role in Fixing Poor Workplace Behavior. Business Performance Blog © 2003 – 2014 Business Performance Pty Ltd, website:
    Mishka Tu’ifua (2010). Code of Ethics and Conduct for the Public Service.
    Monica Patrick, Demand Media. Small Business Chrone How to Handle Someone Coming in Late to Work website:
    The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. (71203) Business Ethics (2013 Revised Ed). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

  2. Leslie Allan Says:

    Thank you Valu for your sharing your experiences with late arrivals. I am pleased that you agree with our approach to managing bad behavior. I wish you well with the rest of your studies.

    Kind Regards, Les Allan

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