Other Collectives' Grievance Procedures
This page is a result of interviews with staff members at People's Food Coop and Citybikes in 2004/2005.
Looks like this is a 4-step process.
Procedure for Performance Improvement (of dept. or individual)
This procedure happens if a dept. or individual is clearly failing to meet the expectations of its/his/her job description.
- The Coordinating Team (CT - don't have a really good definition for this group) or a representative of the team meets with problem worker and identifies concerns
- Worker has a chance for rebuttal/clarifications
- Written plan developed for performance improvement. This includes a time to do a check-in.
If the 'problem worker' is someone on the CT, the committee that meets with him/her/finds a solution is made up of the CT minus the 'problem worker' plus one or two from other teams.
- There's check-ins, and if things don't go as planned, the CT can repeat the talk/written agreement process or go on to the "Formal Concern Process".
The Formal Concern Process:
This procedure happens when a staff member hasn't met performance expectations from the process above, violated a policy, or threatened the security of the coop.
- CT investigates and reviews policies.
- CT or representative talks with 'problem worker', careful to explain policy and that this is the Formal Concern Process.
- CT meets with worker regarding the concerns
- Worker has chance for rebuttal/clarifications
- CT decides what to do next if there's any new info
- If the process continues, they write an Improvement Plan, which has more detailed requirements than the written plan above.
- The Worker tells the rest of the staff what's going on
- The concern goes into the Worker's confidential file
It seems that there's another step in the process
if there's another problem/the Worker doesn't follow the improvement plan. The CT basically runs step 2 again.
Getting really close to termination: Final Concern Process
If another disciplinary action is warranted within a 36-month period, this process starts up, and can lead to termination.
- CT investigates
- CT goes to Worker and lets them know where they're at in the process (the dreaded Final Concerns part)
- CT meets with Worker and outlines the concerns
- Worker has chance for rebuttal/clarification
- CT listens, and decides what to do next
- If CT continues, it makes a recommendation to the rest of the staff of what to do next. They can also have a special meeting as long as everyone can attend. Everyone decides what to do (Worker in question can't block).
- If they all keep the Worker, then another improvement plan is written and it gets put in the Worker's file. If they decide to terminate, the process ends.
They can bypass steps if the concern is serious enough. If this happens, the Worker goes on suspension for a couple of days while they figure out what to do.
This looks like it's a few steps over and over: investigate, meet, make written plan. Four times. Or more. Or less.
This one's a bit simpler. When a Citybikes (CB) policy has been disregarded, the observing party/ies should:
- Immediately talk to the offender and ask that the behavior stops
- If no change, consult another worker. If the other worker agrees that there's a policy breach, also asks offender that behavior stops.
- If still no improvement, report is made to personnel coordinator or review sub-committee, which, if they agree that policy has been broken will meet with offender to arrange sanctions.
Sanctions go like this:
- 1st violation - offender suggests sanctions agreeable to the committee
- 2nd - Committee suggests further sanctions agreeable to the offender
- 3rd - General Meeting (includes all staff) determines further sanctions
- 4th - leave of absence or dismissal
Non-owner can be terminated by a majority vote of all owners. Owner can be terminated by a vote of 80% in favor.
Check 'em out, make suggestions for changes or additions, etc.
What I'm trying to find out:
- What about an organization leads to successful dealings with staff issues?
- Is there something that could be changed about our structure/policies that would help us avoid staff discipline issues altogether?
- Once discipline is needed, what's the most humane and effective way to do it?
- What works well about your procedure? Why? Describe a time when it worked well.
- What doesn't work well? Why? Describe a time when it didn't work very well.
- Does it feel fair for the participants? If not, why not?
- Why did your coop decide to give the procedure the structure it has (CB is more direct, Peoples' works through the CT more)?
- What changes would you suggest to your coop's discipline procedure?
- Review process help avoid staff discipline issues?
- What else helps aviod staff disc. issues?
- Reviews: signed or anon? What's better?
- Sounds great - the key in finding help/suggestions lies in the difference between Coorporate America and Collectives. If we talk with Coorporate America, it may not fit our needs. -- Kathie
- Does it feel fair for the participants? If not, why not?
- Suggestions to cut down on the us vs. them mentality?
Hey. I interviewed Lori of Peoples' on Wednesday the 10th of November and Harriet and Noel today. I wanted to get some notes down of these two meetings before the info disappears from my brain.
You might want to review the original summary (redux is indeed not the right word) of the policies that I made a couple of days ago: http://lists.freegeek.org/private/hr/2004-November/000040.html
Comments, questions, etc. are good things.
Peoples' has lots of methods of feedback. Lots. To understand a little bit about some of their methods, I gotta talk a little about structure. They have about 6 standing committees (they call them 'teams'). Each collective position includes duties on at least one team - preassigned. For example, part of the development director's job is to serve on the Coordinating Team. The Coordinating Team (CT) is the committee that deals with most of the discipline issues. I think there's 4 or 5 people on it (including Lori).
Discipline procedure (Performance Improvement and Concerns):
It seems I was a little wrong in how their procedure works. I said it was 4 steps that all seemed very similar. In reality, the first step, Performance Improvement, is a lot lighter than the others. Kind of like a "We notice there's something up, what's going on?" sort of step. The concerns process is more serious, and happens after the PI part.
Not in the policy doc is one step in the concerns process: the CT, when they're going into the process, will hand the worker a written document that outlines the concerns. She said that the wording of the document can make or break the feeling of fairness of the process.
Something else left out of the documentation is the fact that a third, neutral party can come to every meeting involved in the concern process (not for Performance Improvement - it's not serious enough yet).
She emphasized more than once that speaking to the individual (one on one) is encouraged and works best to avoid using the discipline procedures a lot.
She also said that the part of the discipline process that helps the disciplined worker through the process works well. This is the part where some people from the coordinating team sit down and voice the concerns/problems, let the worker talk and clarify, they find a solution/next steps together, and make a written plan that goes into the worker's permanent record or not depending on whether it was a PI or a concern. There's a check-in after a period of a few months in any case, and she thought this was something that added to the success of the procedure.
Another thing she thought was a good idea is limiting the size of the group that talks to the disciplined worker. They have 1 CT member, 1 witness, and the worker at the concern meetings.
Peoples' workers make a lot of goals for themselves. There's lots of goals for the disciplined worker that come out of their discipline procedures (the written agreement's got 'em). They work consciously to make a measurable outcome for each goal. This could be 'come to work on time 3 months straight' or 'be more open and responsive to feedback' or whatever.
Problem with discipline process:
It can be hard to keep up the process at times. Check-ins tend to fall by the wayside every once in a while.
Some others in the collective have a hard time because the members of the CT haven't been elected onto that team, yet they always are the ones giving discipline. Serving on that specific committee is part of each member of the CT's job description, and there's no rotating off to another team. Lori qualified the structure by saying that the entire collective is involved in making decisions on discipline issues (I forgot to ask where the whole staff is empowered to make decisions on the process other than the choice to terminate or not).
Reviews and other forms of feedback:
Reviews for individuals happen once a year for each collective member. There's a series of about 20 statements that each staff person rates the reviewee 1 - 5 on, and all the numbers are averaged. There's also a section for 'does well' and a section for 'need to work on' that people can write things in for. The reviewers (always CT person, head of some other team, and reveiwee's dept. head) compile the answers into one short document to hand to the person being reviewed. (I think this isn't a bad structure for the review document, but we might want to do 3ish sections of does well/needs improvement answers for stuff like furthers FG goals, work at and concerning committees, job performance, and/or maybe something else.) At each review, the reviewee walks out with a list of goals to work on. They also do a self-eval of their performance over the past year. They store copies of all the documents and bring them to the reviewee's review the next year so they can see if things have improved.
Eventually, they're going to move into a system of reviews where the team fills out a more intensive form than the rest of the collective. The balance of the forms will in turn be made shorter.
Lori said that she liked signed reviews. Since the review sheets are all tabulated and summarized, I don't think the reviewee ever really knows who says what. It's useful, though, if the team doing the review can know who filled out the sheet so they can find him/her if something's illegible or if the feedback's too harsh and needs rewording.
They do feedback in some other ways, too. First of all, the team a person is on is supposed to be responsible for taking care of issues with individuals before they get too big. Preventatively, there's always a 5-10 min section at the start of each team's meeting in which one team member is focused on. They talk about how things are going with them and ask questions and advice of the rest of their team for how to do a more effective job, etc.
If something bigger comes up, it's brought up as an agenda item in the team's meeting. The team member just gets a little nudge, I guess.
Every quarter, each staff member puts together a document that lists all their goals from their job description, reviews, the part of the organization's goals that they've taken on (like stuff from the 3-year plan), and Performance Improvement and Concern processes and list the progress they've made on each goal, and the next steps for each goal. All documents are posted in the staff log. At what's called a 'quarterly team meeting' each team member's quarterly progress document is reviewed and talked about (the documents are supposed to be read before the meeting).
I'll be talking to Jason soon, and I'll report back on his viewpoint of the Peoples policies.
Citybikes' discipline procedures are a far cry from Peoples'. Even though they have a process for discipline, it's not really used. Most issues are addressed on an individual to individual basis. They give each other lip and nudges, and occasionally just tell each other that something that's happening isn't OK. There's even an unwritten sort of policy that says that stuff that's brought up in reviews (which each worker receives annually) shouldn't be new: it should have been brought up to the worker individually before the review.
The last time a discipline issue was dealt with on more of a group basis was probably 5 years ago. It was a sexual harassment charge, and they dealt with it off-the-cuff. They dealt with it in-house by doing a sort of conflict mediation-style talk with both parties. It didn't work out that well because no one was trained in how to do conflict mediation. I think the group that's training themselves in conflict mediation probably arose as a result of this. The conflict mediation team is now available as a way for those who are intimidated by those they have issues with to get the problems addressed.
In terms of reviews, there are yearly reviews with 3, 6, or next-review check-ins if necessary. I think they bring the paperwork from the last review to the current one. If there's a major issue, they sometimes move the problem-worker's review up a few months.
Most of the issues they brought up had to do with lateness, and they said they haven't done any forced trainings or suspensions. If they could change anything about the procedure, Noel mentioned that he would have a grievance slip available to workers. Harriet really likes their system because, she says, it allows the workers "room to be human". Since she's so outspoken and friendly, she tends to know what's up in many of her co-workers' lives, and therefore understands if someone's work is slipping because of life-outside-of-work problems. She's okay with cutting slack when appropriate, because people usually get back on top of things. She's also really good with stating boundaries.
I asked Noel and Harriet why they thought no major issues had arisen. They said that, since the bike mechanics all work within a pretty close proximity to each other, that they tend to be pretty accountable and mature.
Harriet said that one of her biggest problems with the Citybikes community is that they tend to be too liberal and laissez-faire about stating boundaries when someone's going over a line (she's probably one of the biggest heavies when it comes to lateness issues and bigger issues).
I've also heard some stuff through Noel over the past year and a half about people being really passive-agressive or just too shy. There's been times when he's stood up against an idea during a meeting and experienced no support during the meeting, but people then walked up to him immediately following the meeting to voice their support to him. This looks a little like the weenie-liberalism that Harriet spoke of. I think a lot of it is most likely situationally-caused.
I think an example of this attitude is this: apprentices and junior workers get their work checked by senior workers. Cool, but once a senior's work was found to be flawed (I think a customer complained). The senior worker was told about it and refused to start submitting his/her work to once-overs by other workers. Nothing else ever happened - the senior worker just kind of said, "No," and since no one was willing to enforce the non-enforced policy, that's where it still stands.
Another issue at Citybikes is chronic lack of communication between workers: meeting minutes, policy changes, decisions are all posted at one of the shops, but many don't take the time to read them and, as might be expected, there's no real email networking between workers. I don't really know exactly how this affects the problems there, but it probably does somehow.
So, overall, learning this stuff has convinced me that Free Geek, as an organization that has never done staff reviews and only begun doing staff discipline, needs some good avenues for feedback. From what I've seen of these two collectives, I think we need a good balance of policy and straight-up, individual-to-individual problem solving. That way, the hr committee won't be called upon constantly to fix problems, workers are encouraged to deal with each other in mature ways, and, if something is pretty serious or a long-term problem, we have a clear avenue towards a solution. Yes, reviews and a discipline policy will help, but writing individual-to-individual discussion into our policy and modeling it for the rest of staff may also take us a long way towards avoiding major problems.
Free Geek's Staff Discipline Policy