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Lessons from a rugby referee

Lessons from a rugby referee

By Saturday evening Nigel Owens was the only Welshman left with a significant role to play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Disappointed that my team had been knocked out, and with little real interest in the outcome of the New Zealand v France match, I found myself half watching the game, while pondering over the role of the referee and the lessons that could be learned from observing his management of the match.

There was an incident – or rather an alleged incident – that was brought to Owen’s attention by the television match official (TMO). This had already been shown in close up slow motion on the big screen for the 71,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium and estimated 1,054,000 of us watching on TV (not sure whether this counts everyone watching in the pub?). Nigel Owens had seen the video replay on the big screen too, and in a few seconds he carried out the equivalent of a mini disciplinary hearing.

1. Establish the facts. He asks the TMO to state his concerns
2. Check understanding. He asked ‘Correct me if I’m seeing the right picture?’
3. Summarise the situation. He said ‘I don’t see a punch. I just see a fist in the face’
4. Consult the panel. He checked that the TMO agreed with his proposed sanction
5. Issue the sanction. A yellow card for France’s Louis Picamoles

This is where the analogy ends, as there was no opportunity for Picamoles to state his case, or to be represented, although such procedures can take place after the match. Of course I’m not suggesting for a moment that we should discipline employees in the manner of a rugby referee. My point is that, whatever you think of the sanction, it was dealt with quickly and Owens’ communication was crystal clear.

And anyway, rugby is just a game, after all – isn’t it?

Back to reality

In the workplace, allegations of misconduct should be dealt with as quickly as reasonably possible, and employers must carry out a full investigation before making a decision about any disciplinary sanction. In real life we don’t have the benefit of a video replay or a team of match officials, but we still need to establish the facts of the case by examining available evidence and interviewing any witnesses.

Key principles for dealing with allegations of misconduct

1. Make the situation safe (consider suspending in cases of gross misconduct)
2. Support all affected employees
3. Gather relevant evidence
4. Interview any witnesses
5. Arrange a meeting, or disciplinary hearing
6. Provide copies of all evidence to the employee attending the meeting
7. Allow the employee to be represented
8. Give the employee an opportunity to state their case
9. Communicate the outcome in writing
10. Provide a right of appeal, if a disciplinary sanction has been issued

Be clear. Be objective. Be fair. Be consistent.

Posted by Christine Rimmer 20.10.15

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