Discipline and Grievance: 30 Case Studies and Activities

Tackle difficult situations before they escalate!

Media Type - Toolkit
Author - Gill Hardy and Gill Kelley

Managers and team leaders are responsible for the performance and behaviour of themselves and their teams. Sometimes this can be less than ideal – it could be due to other work factors, it could be due to lack of skills or knowledge, it could be due to factors outside work.

Whatever the reason, if the person responsible does not act immediately and appropriately the situation will deteriorate. This can lead to loss of productivity and morale throughout the whole team involved, as well as causing all the additional work, worry and hassle of formal procedures, and potentially, employment tribunals.

Discipline and Grievance: 30 case studies and activities covers the full range of issues relating to discipline and grievance, from informal and formal interviews and warnings to record keeping and appeals. It is a practical resource for all trainers and managers to use to develop  those who deal with discipline and grievance at work.

  • Case studies provide realistic situations that people can relate to
  • Deal with sensitive, persistent and difficult situations
  • Give people the skills and confidence to tackle these issues
  • Learn the stages and procedures of discipline and grievance
  • Understand the actions and responsibilities of individuals and the organisation

Includes CD-ROM containing handouts  as Adobe Acrobat® .pdf files and as a Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentation.


1 Questioning skills
Participants read a dialogue between a manager and an employee, taken from a disciplinary interview. In groups, they are then asked to identify the different types of question used within the dialogue, and to discuss the benefits of using each question type.

2 Active listening
Participants, in pairs, read short scenarios to each other. First, they have to listen, and then write down only what they can remember. Next, they are allowed to make notes while listening. Participants then compare how many of the key facts from each passage they were able to recall, and decide which method will help them to listen most actively.

3 Setting up a disciplinary interview
This case study illustrates the importance of preparation and planning for disciplinary interviews. Participants read a case in which the manager does not plan well. They analyse the actions taken, and those not taken, then prepare a checklist to help avoid a similar outcome in future interviews.

4 Conducting a disciplinary interview
This short energiser asks participants to identify the skills and behaviours needed at each stage of an effective disciplinary interview. It can be linked with Case study 18, which explores the stages in the interview agenda. It can also be run as a role-play in which participants are asked to demonstrate the various appropriate skills and behaviours.

5 A first written warning
This case study provides the details of an interview that results in a first written warning. Participants are asked to write the letter to the employee, and then check against a list of recommended points to include. When you are working with inexperienced participants, the checklist can be issued earlier in the activity, to help them to construct the letter.

6 Effective grievance procedures
Participants choose cards that enable them to draw a diagram to show the different stages of a grievance procedure. They work in groups to reach an understanding of what should be included in each stage of an effective procedure.

7 Respecting confidentiality
In this activity, participants compare and contrast the different approaches of two managers dealing with reported grievances. The activity demonstrates the importance of respecting confidentiality and can be used as a short energiser. Participants also learn how easily the confidentiality rule can be broken.

8 Beating the bully
Dealing with grievances involving bullies can be difficult. In this activity, participants draw up a checklist to help a manager prepare for a hearing concerning a grievance about bullying behaviour. They then provide advice on how to deal further with the situation when the bully fails to comply with the agreement made at the hearing.

9 Whistle-blowing
This case raises awareness that other procedures, such as a whistle-blowing procedure, may be cross-referenced to discipline and grievance procedures. Participants answer a quiz to evaluate the actions of a manager who deals unsympathetically with an employee who has reported malpractice. They consider the problems this can cause, and see the difficulties which can arise through the different values and beliefs held in a company.

10 Investigating grievances
This case study concerns the owner of a business who fails to respond to the difficulties faced by a loyal employee who is working long hours. The employee submits a written grievance, but at the grievance hearing, the owner does not appear to understand her case and the employee is not happy with the outcome of the meeting. Participants work through a number of multiple-choice questions to decide what the owner should have done to avoid this situation.

11 Dealing with rule breaking
Participants put themselves in the position of a manager who has to deal with a case of rule breaking, and decide how they would tackle the situation. This activity emphasises the need to respond in a timely and unambiguous way, to send a single message that breaking the rules is not acceptable behaviour. The activity can also be run as a role-play between the manager and the rule breaker.

12 Dealing with unacceptable behaviour
Complaints from employees about unacceptable behaviour should be investigated as quickly as possible, and dealt with in a non-judgemental manner. Participants read two examples of such situations. In the first, the manager does not respond immediately whereas, in the second example, he does. The cases stop at this point, so that participants can consider what might happen next. The point is also made that it is preferable to deal with cases of harassment internally and informally where possible.

13 Effective disciplinary procedures
This straightforward activity requires participants to think about what should be included in an effective disciplinary procedure, and to separate good points from bad. Participants are provided with cards containing statements, from which they have to choose those which contain useful information on effective disciplinary procedures. Participants then use this set of cards to identify the constituents of good disciplinary procedures.

14 Dealing with serious cases
Participants read a case study, and make brief notes on the different actions of the manager before identifying whether or not the employee has a case for appeal under the three-step statutory procedure. The activity requires an initial introduction to the three-step statutory procedure, and then the trainer facilitates the feedback session and debrief.

15 Is disciplinary action necessary?
Participants read four short case studies, make notes on the different situations, and decide whether or not they think formal disciplinary action is needed. This activity needs very little introduction. It will help participants to realise that formal disciplinary action is not always appropriate and that, under the right circumstances, an informal approach can achieve better results.

16 Acting fairly
This activity stresses the importance of using the disciplinary procedure in a positive way, to change behaviour rather than to punish an individual. Participants are asked to produce a phrase that provides an overview of the purpose of discipline, written so that the initial letters spell ACT FAIR. The activity can be linked to the Fenman video/DVD, Act Fair! on discipline and grievance, for reinforcement.

17 Preparing for a disciplinary interview
A structured approach to preparation ensures that all relevant facts are available at the meeting, and that everyone involved is fully prepared. Participants brainstorm the key points that should be included in a briefing to managers, to help them prepare effectively for a disciplinary interview. As an alternative, participants can be asked to conduct a briefing on preparing for a disciplinary interview.

18 Setting the interview agenda
In this activity, participants think about the stages of a disciplinary or grievance interview. The trainer provides each group with a full set of cards containing the various stages of an interview. The groups are asked to place them in the order which they think would form an appropriate agenda. This case requires very little experience or knowledge of disciplinary or grievance procedures, so it can also be used as a short introduction to the topic.

19 A first-time disciplinary meeting
An otherwise excellent worker, who is a poor timekeeper, fails to improve his punctuality, despite agreeing to do so. The issue becomes a case of misconduct. Participants help the manager decide what to do. He wants to initiate formal disciplinary action and needs advice on how to do this while ensuring that all employee rights are protected.

20 Dealing with persistent offending
A worker fails to make changes in behaviour agreed at an earlier informal meeting, so formal disciplinary action is taken. Participants are provided with relevant background information and the notice of the disciplinary meeting. The outcomes of the meeting are described in the case, then participants are asked to write the letter outlining the disciplinary decision – in this case, a written warning.

21 Recording actions
This activity uses a case study to illustrate what might happen if managers fail to keep accurate records of disciplinary discussions and actions taken. Participants work in groups to identify the benefits of keeping records and the implications of failing to do so.

22 Using specialist resources
This activity illustrates different instances where the most appropriate action includes referral to an outside agency, which is better equipped than the manager to help the individual. Examples include drug abuse, alcohol abuse and stress-related illnesses or family guidance. Participants read the case studies and discuss what the manager should do next in each case.

23 What is a wipe-clean policy?
Participants are asked to consider what they think is the appropriate lifespan for various disciplinary warnings and to answer the question: What is a wipe-clean policy? This is a simple activity, which can be run as a quick energiser.

24 Dealing with appeals
This activity uses a scenario to illustrate the situation leading up to an appeal and includes an appeal letter and a notice of appeal meeting for participants to assess. Participants read the case study and then assess the accompanying paperwork and how appropriate it is for the situation. They make recommendations for improvements where necessary.

25 Notification of the result of appeals
This activity follows on from Case study 24 Dealing with appeals. The first case study states the result of Jenny’s appeal hearing, then participants are asked to write to her, confirming the result. In the second case study, the disciplinary decision is upheld at an appeal hearing, and participants are asked to write this letter as well. The contents of the letters are discussed and developed, and any additionally required material is agreed.

26 Constructive dismissal
Managers of people at every level must be keenly aware of the concept of constructive dismissal, in order to avoid any situations that might lead to such a claim. In this activity, participants read about the case of an employee who has been advised that he has a case for constructive dismissal. Participants decide whether this advice was correct, and explore the concept and the definition of constructive dismissal.

27 Dealing with gross misconduct
Gross misconduct is behaviour that is totally unacceptable and so serious that it justifies summary dismissal. Participants read a case study that describes three different behaviours, and they consider which actions might constitute gross misconduct. The activity examines the sort of actions that organisations generally classify as gross misconduct, and looks at the difference between summary and instant dismissal. The need to investigate fully before taking any decision is also emphasised.

28 Being objective
Participants read a case study where a manager uses subjective comments and expresses personal opinions in a disciplinary interview. They are asked to change these statements into more objective ones, and to advise how the manager could improve her approach. The point is made that disciplinary action should be based on fact, not on opinion, and must be concerned with behaviour, not an attack on an individual.

29 Understanding capability
Since poor performance is generally not a conduct issue, many organisations treat it under a capability procedure. In this activity, participants follow the actions of a manager dealing with poor performance, to decide what he did right and what he did wrong. The principles involved in dealing with poor performance, and the procedures followed, are discussed and agreed.

30 Disciplinary penalties
This short energiser tests participants’ knowledge and understanding of factors to take into account when deciding on what disciplinary penalty to set. The activity will help participants consider cases on an individual basis, whilst also ensuring that there is fairness and consistency across the organisation. Organisational and employee-related factors are considered, in order to help achieve this balance.

  • Publisher - Fenman
    Support Material - Printed copy in ring-binder + CD-ROM • 30 Cases • 112 'OK to copy' pages
    Length - 224 pages
  • Printed Activity Pack
    Price - INR 10,950
    Intl. Price - £ 150.00
    Stand-alone CD-ROM
    Price - INR 8,950
  • Stand-alone CD-ROM also available: The printed activity pack is also available as a stand-alone CD-ROM which contains the entire resource as a printable PDF, allowing you to print off pages from the CD as you wish. The content is identical. It also contains PowerPoint slides taken from the original pack.