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You have spoken to this difficult employee countless times and you’ve established that there are no underlying personal problems. Now it is time for the next step.

It is important to understand when a disciplinary route can help. There are behaviours and there are personalities. As an employer you can expect employees to change their behaviour. Don’t discipline them for their personality!

Firstly identify what the “trouble” is:

An employee may seek to take advantage by:

  • exaggerating their expenses
  • stealing your time by not working when you are paying them to do so
  • seeking pay increases but still return mediocre performance.

Some employees believe that you are out to exploit them and

  • spread negative gossip
  • never give more than 100% and usually much less
  • continually complain


  • ignore you subtly by never really following instructions
  • are unreliable or continually seek high levels of flexibility in the way they work

Here is what you do

Start the disciplinary process. If you don’t have one already Employer Solutions can help or you can use the ACAS procedure that is available online.

It is a set of precise steps. It takes time. But then the aim is to increase profit, so the time is justified.

You need to start by writing out the “invitation” letter for a meeting.

Here is a guide for the letter’s content:

  • State the problems clearly – focus on behaviour rather than personality or “attitude”.
  • State the purpose of the meeting – that is to hear their explanations for the behaviour.
  • Advise them that you are contemplating issuing them with a disciplinary warning and that the meeting could result in such a warning.
  • Include details of the meeting: date, time, place, who will be present (it should be two people, manager and note-taker).
  • Advise that they need to take every reasonable step to attend (the meeting will usually be in working time or otherwise paid time). Failure to attend may mean a decision being taken in their absence.
  • Advise them that they can have a Trade Union rep or work colleague accompanying them.

You should give 48 hours notice of the meeting or at least reasonable time for the employee to prepare.

Employer Solutions have a letter template, available on request, or we can prepare a letter on your behalf.

Next month we will look at how you should conduct the meeting.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice