April 10, 2018

“Anarchists” on the team: how to deal with violators of corporate rules


Ongoing series of articles from ILF experts on working with difficult employees. This time the authors explain how to act when there’s an “anarchist” among the staff who refuses to comply with corporate rules and standards.

Remember the movie 300? Specifically the scene where the protagonist kicks an enemy into a pit with a wild howl of “This Sparta!” and then leads a small but competent team to do battle against an army of many thousands? What made this possible? Leadership, strict recruitment policy and efficient corporate culture, ignoring which entailed punishment by birching at the very least. However, iron discipline and uncompromising sanctions were later replaced by an era of loyalty, involvement and tolerance.

Our sales manager Eugene was lucky to be born in these blessed times. He does his job. Well, what of it if he is often 40 minutes late and then drinks tea at the accounts department for an hour more? And yes, he believes that phones are harmful to one’s health, so he rarely answers calls, while watching a video about hedgehogs six times a day helps him unwind and cheer himself up. Does he not have the right to relax? The employer’s hand is itching for the rod, but you can’t. The times have changed. And, paradoxically, Eugene still does well with his sales plan once in a while. However, he’s also a distraction to others, showing them a bad example and never remorse for his actions. So what can we do with an employee who violates corporate rules and standards?

CEO’s perspective

Yekaterina Zaslavskaya, Director of ILF Kiev office

Let's see what violations we’re talking about here.

1. Work schedule

An employee is late almost every day. He either gets stuck in the traffic, helps his cat give birth or falls asleep again accidentally. It’s the same story with lunch break – he goes out and simply disappears. Same goes for getting off work, when he, like a shadow, slips away half an hour early. Moreover, he’s often late for meetings and ignores corporate events.

2. Dress code

Python skin clothes are exotic, pink shoes are comfortable and a sweatshirt with a skull on it looks badass. Just not at the office where people arrive every morning after going through the rigors of ironing their shirts. When someone shows up in shiny python skin, it is unfair to say the least, and, if we’re being completely honest, also unaesthetic, inappropriate and against the rules.

3. Subordination

It’s when, in a company with a clear hierarchical structure, a junior intern addresses department head Sergei Borisovich like this: “Hey Sarge, who did you say to send that letter to?” Or when our intern, in front of the dumbfounded audience, expresses his joy like this: “Damn, we rock! Dude, you’re not a boss, you’re a rock star!” It's kind of nice, but something is off here.

4. Confidentiality

The employee fails to protect his mail with secure passwords, tells everyone he meets what you are doing there and posts photos of company meetings on social networks, marking everyone present. How can we protect our company from security breaches?

5. Ethics

Unethical comments about the looks, personal life and career prospects of female employees or offensive statements about representatives of other ethnicities might not simply be a disruption to the atmosphere on the team, but also violate human rights. How can we avoid discrimination and sexism at the company?

First of all, ask yourself one key question: “Why does the employee violate the rules?” Perhaps it’s simply because he is unfamiliar with them? After all, employers often forget to bring up rules of conduct at the stage of hiring and during the adjustment period. Or, employers think that a short introductory briefing is enough by itself. However, you can safely reprimand employees or fire them only when all rules have been discussed, listed in special documents and signed by the employee. Otherwise, who’s really to blame here?

So, how to deal with undisciplined employees? What documents regulate the rules of behavior in a company? How to convey them to employees and what is the dismissal procedure, should it come to this?

Lawyer’s perspective

Sergey Silchenko, partner on labor and tax law at ILF

It’s up to the employer whether he will have the tools needed to effectively combat “anarchism” within the team. After all, if employees don’t know the rules of behavior and they are not established in documents, the employer cannot demand compliance with them.

Executives often consider internal labor regulations, job descriptions and employment contracts as perfunctory documents. But it is in these documents that you can specify the rules and responsibilities that will entail disciplinary measures if they are violated.

An “anarchist” on the team often constantly violates labor discipline. So, if talking to him doesn’t help, he can be brought to disciplinary liability. This is where a legitimate question arises: is the employee obligated to observe the company's rules if he is unfamiliar with them?

It is the employer’s duty to explain to the employee his rights and obligations and get him acquainted with internal labor regulations (Article 29 of the Labor Code).

The employer can indicate all required duties and restrictions related to the work of employees in internal documents:

  • work schedule;
  • dress code;
  • standards for writing documents;
  • standards for communicating with customers;
  • confidentiality policy, protection of trade secrets, etc.

Employers are only limited by legislation that determines minimum guarantees for employees: the right to privacy, safe working conditions, etc. In order to demand compliance with the rules, it is necessary to put them in company documents.

It is also important to follow the disciplinary liability procedure established by the law.

1) Violations of labor discipline (disciplinary offense) must be documented. This could be a report from the employee’s supervisor, documents confirming absence from work, reports from the lobby about the employee’s coming in late, etc.

Remember, only violations of the duties established in the employment contract or internal documents (such as internal labor regulations) are considered a disciplinary offense. Therefore, if the company, for instance, fails to put a certain dress code in the documents, the manager will be unable to punish the employee even if he comes dressed in python skin.

2) Obtain a written explanation from the employee (such as a letter of explanation). If the employee refuses, prepare an appropriate document together with the colleagues.

3) Issue an order on bringing disciplinary action against the employee in the form of reprimand or dismissal. This can be done within 1 month from the day the violation was discovered but no later than 6 months from the day it was committed. In addition, you can choose to withhold a bonus or other incentives from the employee within one year from the day of signing the reprimand order.

The employee must be apprised of the order on disciplinary action in person and preferably sign it as well. Putting the order on a bulletin board or sending it via corporate chat is not considered legally valid.

The employer is not required to reprimand or fire an employee. It is his right. Also, not every violation of labor discipline grants the right to dismiss employees (grounds for dismissal for violation of labor discipline are listed in Articles 40 and 41 of the Labor Code).

If we consider the violations listed by Yekaterina, the grounds for firing the “anarchists” may include:

  1. Systematic failure to perform work duties, when the employee, within one year after having been subjected to disciplinary action, commits a disciplinary offense again. The key here is for the employee to commit an offense while the previous disciplinary action is still in force.
  1. Absenteeism. When the employee is absent from work during working hours for more than 3 hours without valid reasons, this constitutes absenteeism. It provides sufficient grounds for dismissal.

However, the law does not provide an exhaustive list of these “valid reasons”. It is important to remember that only being absent from the place of work is considered absenteeism (the office or factory, that is, territory of the company). If the employee is taking a stroll on company grounds, it not considered absenteeism.

You should also remember that dismissed employees can go to court to defend their rights. So, you should not just correctly codify work duties, but also record all violations of labor discipline and observe the procedure for disciplinary actions.

The source: https://prohr.rabota.ua/anarhistyi-v-komande/