Let’s face it. The time period in and around the process that you, an officer, are dealing with a Disciplinary Investigation and action/reaction or Letter of Counseling, is a difficult time. Whether you are handling the Letter of Counseling yourself or have requested an official investigation from regional, it is a difficult situation. This educational document is designed to give you a few pointers in dealing with players in a positive manner and help facilitate the integrity of the Office and assist in some relative calm in your Domain/Chapter.
Stick with the Golden Rules of dealing with members
As an officer, you want to reinforce and remind members about the Club Code of Conduct and investigation process. Depending on how well known an investigation is, this reminder might be even more public in nature. This action centers members as to what is expected and reinforces the equity and fairness of the process which you will be undertaking.
It is also a reminder for yourself as to how and what you should be looking for in terms of your own behavior. Sticking with the Golden Rules helps keep you from Defamation, creating or maintaining a hostile or intimidating environment, over-stepping your authority in your office, and helps prevent victimization. Conducting yourself in a positive manner, asking probing questions to reveal the truth of the matter without preconception and acting in a diligent manner are imperative.
There is always a bit of shock when people get bad news. Folks react differently and as needed some cooling off period might be warranted. But after the initial shock wears off, then you need to make sure the person who received the disciplinary action understands why they got it and the penalty applied. In some cases additional factors may have been applied which increased the penalty, make sure these are understood as well.
If, however, personal threats of violence are made, take appropriate safety precautions. Violence is not tolerated and additional actions may be necessary.
In order for the person to understand what is about to transpire or has already been put into action, understandably, they are going to ask lots of questions. Don’t shy away from people asking questions for understanding or clearly understand what actions they are to take or should take in handling the practical resolution of the disciplinary penalty made. It’s important that your responses are professional but have some sensitivity to them.
You need to realize that “being real” is a true sign of not only doing the right thing, but being a true friend. That’s what we all are here in the Club – friends and we want to keep that friendship going in the long haul. How you conduct yourself after the news is broken is an indicator of the kind of person you are.
Promote avenues for seeking advice and mediating
Because most club members are linked together in friendship and from an in-character perspective, many will want to know the status and find of the investigation. Some members might want to “pile on” issues related to an accused member that had previously been unreported.
Promoting the Code of Conduct and inquiring what the member has done previously to discuss and resolve a previously unreported manner is always a good first place to start. Sometimes members don’t report or confront other members due to various reasons and some sensitivity needs to be shown especially in harassment situations. While some unreported incidents might show repeated behavior pattern, they should be reported and investigated as a separate incident.
If there is a conflict between to separate members, sometimes seemingly retaliatory accusations are made opening additional investigation. Again, being professional, follow the processes of an investigation and discern the truth of the accusation.
Monitor and ensure a conducive environment
Because findings are not made during a time period and there is presumed innocence until a finding is rendered, Officers need to reinforce the confidentiality of the investigation, interviews, and alike. When asking questions to those given as being a witness, do not ask leading questions. When interacting with other members be sure to reinforce the investigation process and the confidentiality of the process. Ask members for patience while the investigation is being handled. This may include private conversations with the accused and other players to reinforce appropriate conduct.
While you may be acting as quickly as you can to address the investigation, do your best to remain calm, cool and collected (business as normal).
Clearly outline potential outcomes and consequences of the outcomes.
Being upfront, open and honest with members goes a long way. When an investigation is going on, work with the accused and make sure they understand the process, the timeline, what they have been accused of, and what level of disciplinary action could result if it proves true. Encourage cooperation with the investigation and clearly communicate when obstacles or barriers are thrown up in the investigation as to consequences to those actions. Make sure they know they can ask any questions at any time.
Communicate what will happen as to an outline course of action if the accusation proves false. Talk about the confidentiality of the case and how documents are handled and who records are provided to.
Once consequences have been given, talk about the consequences as it pertains to participation on lists, transition of any responsibilities, character actions, etc. so that a full understanding is provided to the accused.
Discuss how suspension is handled.
Members who receive a suspension serve the time during the time they are a member (their membership is active). Should the membership lapse, time length of the suspension is extended until such time that their membership is renewed and the balance of their suspension is served. Prior to a player returning from a suspension – check in with them. Find out about their preparedness to return to the Club. Check progress on resolving issues, updates to education, etc. that would help to make sure what transpired doesn’t happen again. If significant developments have transpired from a Club standpoint, make sure they are aware of them. Again, be available for questions and try to make sure the returning member steps in on the right foot upon re-entry.
Check to see when the accused’s membership is expiring and discuss how suspension is handled .Make sure that they are aware that communication between the member and their coordinator is allowed. Keep that window open so you can make sure the member feels welcomed back. Members who receive a suspension serve the time during the time they are a member (their membership is active). Should the membership lapse, time length of the suspension is extended until such timethat their membership is renewed and the balance of their suspension is served.
Likewise, if your term as an Officer is ending, be sure in your transition to go over any outstanding actions pertaining to the Disciplinary Action taken which will still be in effect after your term is concluded.
It is not unusual during a suspension for a member not to review their Club email. After all, they should not be responding to it. You should however obtain an email address or contact information for the member during this time period to assure they see vital Club communications which might need more immediate response. Likewise, if the member is reviewing their Club email and they obtain something that requires a more immediate response, then the response should go to the appropriate local officer who may take appropriate action for the suspended member. Members should not be responding to lists or continuing private RP or Club activities during a suspension.
Outline the Appeal process should they want to avail themselves to it
Should questions come up in your discussion about appealing the decision of the officer, reference should be made to the Membership Handbook. In particular, point out the number of days to make an appeal. Also you may provide the email address to the person as to who the appeal should be sent to.
Do make an inquiry as to the reason for the appeal. Draw attention to the Membership Handbook for reasons to appeal as needed. You can find out more information about the Appeals Process in the Coord 305: Appeals Process document.
Keep communication pathways open, don’t burn bridges.
Encourage conversation to find out underlying reason for action which lead to the DA and work through what can be done to address issue (work things out with other player as need be/reading materials, etc.) and how to avoid issue in future.
The tone and what you say will speak volumes as to whether a positive relationship in the long run will be had. Be profession, speak to the facts, act with integrity and remain positive even when a negative judgment occurs. Seek solutions and practical steps that can be taken to retain an open door for further constructive discussion and resolution beyond the impacts of the disciplinary action itself if feasible.
Who knows if the person who is accused now finds themselves in a similar situation down the line investigating you – how would you want to be treated?
It’s to the person’s advantage to treat the disciplinary action as a new chapter. Instead of lingering on to some resentment, getting down to the bottom of why actions turned out the way they did should be encouraged. What we can control as a Club is the event space, club activities and alike, but it doesn’t prevent interactions outside of the Club from happening which (if we work towards it), could positively resolve issues. Sometimes this is a sit down chat between the two parties casually after cooler heads prevail. Other times, facilitation of a discussion might be agreed upon by the parties in efforts to improve the gaming environment.
In other cases, encouraging the person to get involved, take the Standards, read educational documents, read the addenda and books are of assistance to increase their overall understanding of the club, the Venues, and rules. But interacting with the member about the situation itself and how you can work together to avoid a similar response is mutually beneficial.