The BBC’s recent dismissal of Jeremy Clarkson provides a valuable lesson in disciplinary proceedings for businesses both large and small.
It is a common problem that high performing team members feel entitled to preferential treatment or that the “rules do not apply to them”.
Weighing up commercial benefits of retaining staff against the detrimental affect their behavior has on the rest of the workforce is not an easy task, particularly if their contribution to the company is as significant as Clarkson’s was to the BBC.
HR processes should be dispassionate and objective. Those responsible for the disciplinary procedures in a company should not be swayed by the influence of colleagues internally, or in the case of the BBC additional external influences such as popularity amongst the public.
Those responsible for HR should be careful not to apportion additional weight to a case based on those in the company who carry the most influence before appropriate processes have been followed and fact-finding exercises taken place.
Clarkson was on a final written warning following allegations of racism last year. Despite the arguably tasteless petitioning of his reinstatement by the public after his suspension, the BBC acted in entirely the correct manner based on their obligations as an employer in the UK.
The risk to businesses that choose to apply exceptional procedures to staff members for reputational biases, in an effort to enhance profitability, often has the opposite affect. The “thin edge of the wedge” is that staff members feel resentful and demotivated due to inconsistencies amongst management. The more serious risk to the business is it has to defend itself in a tribunal for dismissing a member of staff for a lesser or similar offence.
A correct decision does not always have to be the most popular.