So you’ve been called into a disciplinary meeting with your boss. You’re not exactly sure what the meeting is about and you don’t know what you can/can’t do or say. It can be a really distressing time so here are some tips about your rights and how to approach the meeting.
Before the meeting
Ask for an agenda – this will help you determine the true nature of meeting and allow you to prepare.
Ask for any policies that will be relied on – if the meeting is about performance management your employer should provide you a copy of the Company’s performance management policy.
When you are notified about the meeting, keep records such as emails, of all your correspondence with your employer. You should also write a file-note after every important conversation you have.
Don’t talk about the meeting with your co-workers – these meetings should be confidential.
Organise a support person. This is SO important! Your employer should allow you to bring a support person to a disciplinary meeting – it will count against them if they don’t. While they may reasonably refuse you bringing a fellow co-worker, your employer should not deny you bringing a family member, friend or employment lawyer – as long as the person is there to support you and not act as your representative.
The benefits of taking a support person
Sometimes more than one employer representative will be present at the meeting including your boss and a human resources representative. This can be both intimidating and distracting. Taking a support person can help even out the numbers and provide you essential moral support. While your support person cannot speak on your behalf or direct how the meeting proceeds, they will be able to identify when you are getting distressed and call for a break.
If you do need to call a recess, you can ask that your boss leave the room for a few minutes (but ensure that there are no recording devices in the room before you launch into debriefing about the meeting!), or step out yourself. Have a glass of water, get up and walk around and gather your thoughts. You want to avoid getting aggressive or combative so asking for a break is an essential tool in keeping calm.
It’s really important to keep a record of what everyone says in the meeting. You want to be focused on engaging in the dialogue so your support person can be your note-taker. If your boss refers to specific dates or conversations your support person can jot those details down. This gives you the opportunity to clarify or dispute what was put to you after the meeting.
If a support person is present it usually means that everyone will keep the meeting civil and professional. However, if things do go sideways your support person will be able to corroborate your version of events. The notes the support person will also serve this purpose.
During the meeting
As your emotions may be high don’t admit to or sign anything during the meeting. Instead, ask your boss to:
- provide their written notes from the meeting;
- put their proposed course of action in writing to you; and
- provide timeframes.
If your boss tells you that you’re going to be placed on a performance improvement plan, asks you to respond to a show cause letter as to why your employment should not be terminated or dismisses you, you can contact us on 1800 RES 123 to chat about your options.