HR 28 September 2016

Lessons from Sam Allardyce: Dealing with staff that took an axe to your reputation

Sam Allardyce was caught telling under cover reporters how to bypass rules on player transfers

Alan Price, employment law and HR director at Peninsula, looks at how a business owner can deal with employees that have damaged the company’s reputation.

Sam Allardyce left his job as England manager after he was caught telling undercover reporters how to bypass rules on player transfers, as well as slamming his predecessor Roy Hodgson and assistant Gary Neville.

While some of those remarks made by Sam Allardyce could have been explained away as embarrassing indiscretions, the advice on circumventing the FA’s own transfer regulations was particularly problematic and damaging to the FA.

The reputation of a business is obviously important to an employer, and rude and disrespectful behaviour will not want to be tolerated by a business. However, it is important that an employer fully understands the extent of any possible underlying causes before pulling up an employee, and treat the tricky issue in the correct manner.

Steps to take (to avoid a Sam Allardyce situation)

An informal meeting is the first course of action to take after inappropriate behaviour from an employee. This should not be in the tone of a disciplinary meeting, as the purpose of the conversation is not in relation to the employee’s work performance.

Here’s what employers need to do:

  • Ask to speak to the employee in a private setting where you can speak openly and without interruption
  • Tell them that you’ve noticed their behaviour and ask if everything is ok
  • Ask questions to try and ascertain the welfare of the employee, and be prepared to be sympathetic if they divulge any personal information

It is possible that the behaviour of the employee is not a result of any external factors, and in which case may be dealt with by the employer as a conduct matter. In this instance, the employer is entitled to remind the employee to show respect to colleagues and clients, and to act professionally at all times in the workplace.

At this stage, an informal word to them should be enough to let them know that the negative impact of their behaviour on the workplace has been noted and should not continue.

If their behaviour continues despite having spoken to the employee, then the employer can attempt to improve their behaviour by:

  • Issuing a warning where appropriate
  • Initiating a disciplinary procedure against them
  • Building on live warnings for future instances of misconduct

If their misconduct increases the employer may have to look at gross misconduct. Gross misconduct is an act so serious that it warrants a summary dismissal without notice – even at first offence.

Alan Price is the HR director at Peninsula.

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