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You have been the store manager for a large coffee shop for three years but have never had this type of problem employee to handle before, and you schedule a meeting to speak with your HR manager about it. Jake, one of your best employees, has recently begun to have some problems. He is showing up to work late at least twice per week, and he missed the mandatory employee meeting on Saturday morning. When you ask him about it, he says that he is having some personal problems and will try to get better.
For a bit of time, Jake does get better, comes to work on time, and is his normal, pleasant self when helping customers. However, the situation gets more serious two weeks later when Jake comes to work smelling of alcohol and wearing the same clothes he wore to work the day before. You overhear some of the employees talking about Jake’s drinking problem. You pull Jake aside and ask him what is happening. He says his wife kicked him out of the house last night and he stayed with a friend, but he didn’t have time to gather any of his belongings when he left his house. You accept his answer and hope that things will get better.
A week later, when Jake arrives for his 10–7 shift, he is obviously drunk. He is talking and laughing loudly, smells of alcohol, and has a hard time standing up. You pull him aside and decide to have a serious talk with him. You confront him about his drinking problem, but he denies it, saying he isn’t drunk, just tired from everything happening with his wife. You point out the smell and the inability to stand up, and Jake starts crying and says he quit drinking ten years ago but has recently started again with his impending divorce. He begs for you to give him another chance and promises to stop drinking. You tell him you will think about it, but in the meantime, you send him home.
The meeting with HR is this afternoon and you feel nervous. You want to do what is right for Jake, but you also know this kind of disruptive behavior can’t continue. You like Jake as a person and he is normally a good employee, so you don’t want to fire him. When you meet with the HR manager, he discusses your options. The options, he says, are based on a discipline process developed by HR, and the process helps to ensure that the firing of an employee is both legal and fair. As you review the process, you realize that ignoring the behavior early on has an effect on what you can do now. Since you didn’t warn Jake earlier, you must formally document his behavior before you can make any decision to let him go. You hope that Jake can improve so it doesn’t come down to that.
The author introduces the chapter on employee performance.