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  Case 5. Coaching, Counseling, and Discipline: HR’s Role—Document, Document, Document

Andrea Watson works in the small human resources department at ABC Fitness Center. There are currently about 50 employees working at ABC Fitness. Andrea enjoys the process of hiring and providing an orientation program for new employees. However, she does not like the responsibility of firing employees when they do not fit into the culture at ABC Fitness.

To overcome her own hesitation with firing employees, Andrea reviewed the coaching process, counseling process, progressive discipline process, and the tests for just cause used in disciplinary investigations. Andrea started to study and implement these processes about 2 years ago at ABC Fitness.

ABC Fitness uses the coaching process to give employees feedback to improve their performance over time. Coaching involves four steps: (1) describing the current performance, or what is currently being done by the employee; (2) describing the desired performance, or what the manager wants the employee to change; (3) getting a verbal commitment from the employee to change; and (4) following up to make sure the employee is behaving in the desired manner. Coaching is often associated with sports coaches such as Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University or Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots. However, coaching can be just as effective in a business situation as in sports. Employees in every organization need to receive positive feedback and support while doing their jobs.

Counseling is provided for employees who are not currently working at an acceptable level. Guidance is provided to help get the employee back on track. Management counseling involves giving the employee feedback so he or she knows a problem is affecting job performance. Employees with severe personal problems can be referred for help to the employee assistance program (EAP) to get assistance.

Unfortunately, some employees just cannot get their work performance to an acceptable level. Progressive discipline is then used to try to solve minor disciplinary infractions. Progressive discipline is a series of steps to help provide discipline:

  • Step 1. Informal talk
  • Step 2. Oral warning
  • Step 3. Written warning
  • Step 4. Suspensions
  • Step 5. In some cases, demotion or transfer, or
  • Step 6. Dismissal

A key element in disciplinary investigations is just cause. Just cause is a set of standards used to test for fairness in an organizational setting to ensure that any disciplinary action taken has reasonable cause. The tests attempt to ensure that the individual knew what the rules were, that there was reasonable evidence or proof that the person violated or disobeyed the rules, and that, if the rules were violated, the disciplinary action was appropriate and fair.

Andrea wasn’t sure if all of these processes were conducted in the case of Derek Struble. Derek was an employee who worked at ABC Fitness for the last 20 years. He didn’t exhibit the greatest level of enthusiasm with the health center’s fitness members, but he was also never rude. He assisted fitness members whenever they needed help.

Andrea reviewed Derek’s file and found he was in a graduate, nonprofit management program, which was supported by ABC Fitness since it paid half the tuition. His file contained limited documentation that Derek was at times not as “cheery” or “happy” as one might expect at a fitness center. The file mentioned that Derek didn’t generate enough personal fitness training, which members paid for and which helped finance the fitness center.

Andrea was fairly sure Derek wasn’t fired due to gross negligence (such as leaving the fitness members unattended). Nor was he fired due to serious misconduct, such as hurting another employee or doing harm to the company. Actually, Derek was very actively trying to recruit new members to the facility.

Thus, Andrea wished she had more documentation that would show that Derek had been coached, counseled, or had even gone through progressive discipline. She could find in the file only some notes that Derek could be more pleasant and should improve the number of paid training sessions he conducted in the fitness center.

Andrea was also concerned with the fact that Derek was 39 years old. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older. Congress found that older workers were disadvantaged in their efforts to retain employment and especially in regaining employment when released from a job.1 Since Derek was 39, he was certainly very close to age 40 and could file a lawsuit against the fitness center.

Andrea had a meeting scheduled with Derek later in the afternoon. Her major thought was something her former director of human resources at her last job used to say, “Document, document, document.”

Case Questions

  1. Would you, from what you know, discharge Derek?


  • A minimum of 3 pages, double spaced, 12 pitch, Times New Roman font
    • APA style – Title page (not included in the 3 pages)
    • APA style – Reference page (not included in the 3 pages)
  • The paper should include as a minimum:
    • Overview of the case
    • Answers the question posed by the case
    • Explanation of the tools and research literature utilized to analysis the case and why you select these tools to assist in your problem solving
    • Additional solutions and input beyond what was discussed above in answering the question.

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