Best Way To Respond To Hearing About Smoking?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about smoking:

I am due to attend a disciplinary interview shortly, over smoking in a non-designated area. The facts are: I was going home at the end of my shift heading towards the exit which is a turnstile into the car park when I absentmindedly lit a cigarette. I was approximately twenty feet and less than 30 seconds from exiting this non- designated smoking area when a member of the management team saw me smoking and hence disciplinary action has ensued. I fully understand that smoking in a non- designated area is regarded as a serious breach but can I use in mitigation that it was a lapse as I was going home and would have been in the car park in a few moments? I am prepared to accept some censure short of sacking.

Although I accept it is serious, I am of the opinion that the manager in question, when he actually viewed the incident, if he thought it was that serious that it warranted disciplinary action, should have approached me and told me to put out my cigarette. He was in a position to do so.

Further, I have anecdotal evidence that another workmate was caught by another manager smoking in a non-designated area in mid shift and was told he could not smoke where he was and that and to put his cigarette out and no further action was taken. It seems to me that there is a lack of consistency in management approach as regards this issue. Would it be worthwhile mentioning this at my hearing? Your thoughts would be helpful.

Signed, Concerned

Dear Concerned:

It is best to approach any disciplinary interview with a couple of thoughts in mind:

1. If you did not do the thing you are charged with, focus on providing proof and asking for the proof being used against you.

2. If you did it, focus on the reasoning behind your actions and anything that shows it was more a mistake of the head than the heart. (You thought you were doing the right thing or it wasn’t purposeful, and you’re sorry you did it.) It is also wise to consider that hearing officers or managers and supervisors may be cynical because they have heard explanations and excuses before. They don’t enjoy these situations any more than the employees do, and would like to find a easy solution that doesn’t create ill will. On the other hand, they don’t want to set a precedent or be inconsistent. (You already know how that is viewed!)If you know what actions have been taken about other employees in similar situations, that might prepare you somewhat for what is likely. I don’t think bringing up the warning to another employee would be helpful, unless the situation was exactly the same as yours so you thought you could smoke in that area. You’ve already said you knew it was non-designated and you shouldn’t have smoked there.

Also, it is like speeding. Not everyone gets a ticket, even if they are stopped, but that doesn’t mean others can’t be ticketed, so using that as a defense in court never prevents being fined.I think your best approach is this: When you are asked to make a statement, say you did it and you are very, very sorry, because it not only has created a lot of stress for you already, but also makes it appear you were purposely violating the rules, when you weren’t purposely doing so. Emphasize that you are a good employee and that you are not the kind of person who pushes back all the time. (If you do tend to push back and argue, that might be the problem here!) You just want to get back to work and focus on doing your work without this stressful situation getting in the way.

That approach does a couple of things: It portrays you as honest and not trying to make excuses, and it shows that you have suffered over this already, because of your worries about it. You may want to say even more about being worried over the results, as a way to point that out. If the person you’re talking with believes you know you were wrong and won’t do it again, AND that you intend to move forward positively, it might be helpful for the decision. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

If there is a proscribed penalty, you will likely get that. But, this is not a very, very serious violation, unless you have been warned before, or if it is one in a long line of problems you have had.

Hopefully that is not the case.I’m sorry this has happened, and I hope things work out well for you. Sometimes if we handle things effectively, it is a way to show our true character and will help us in the long run. That might be true in this case as well. Best wishes. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.