Employee Discipline

5 Tips for Getting it Right

Disciplining Employees

This may not be readily apparent, but disciplining employees isn’t exactly a supervisor’s favorite pastime.

Disciplining your employees isn’t about being the top dog and letting everyone know it – disciplining is done for the good of the employees and the work environment.

Employee discipline sets an example and protects the business. Therefore, it’s in the organization’s best interest to create a communication channel which is consistent and clear regarding disciplining employees — it’ll be instrumental in avoiding lawsuits especially for wrongful terminations.

Why Do We Need to Discipline People, Anyway?

When employee behavior doesn’t measure up to company standards, profits suffer. So does productivity and the work environment.

Discipline involves informing the employee about the issue or issues posthaste, and they should be given the chance to remedy it. Once you’ve gotten that squared away, follow the disciplinary process as prescribed by your organization’s rules and regulations.

Most of the time you’ll find that instruction and correction is the case when it comes to disciplining employees. As a supervisor it’s your duty to explain to the offending employee what areas or aspects they must improve on and propose solutions. You’re also supposed to give them a reasonable period of time to implement the solutions.

Only when serious misbehavior such as physical assault or theft occurs should you escalate to equally serious actions such as immediate termination. If you’re faced with such a case, you’ve got to go to the proper authorities and/or associations.

Progressive Discipline

Disciplining employees is a difficult part of a leader’s job. Not many leaders enjoy doing so, but it is a very necessary evil.

When disciplining it’s best to take the progressive approach. Most times when issues regarding employees crop up, the company usually goes through a process called progressive discipline.

Progressive discipline may be legally defensible, but having to go through the entire process may cost the company much in terms of productivity, time, and profits. One may have to weigh the resources being spent on the offending employee against hiring and training an entirely new employee.

Here’s how it goes, in order. Before that, a word of warning: the process may not be as straightforward as described herein. The number of exchanges and time spent on each step may differ greatly depending on who you’re disciplining:

  • Verbal Warning or Counseling
  • Written warning
  • Suspension
  • Termination

Stage 1 of Progressive Discipline: Verbal Warning

As soon as a problem crops up, talk to the employee involved in the issue. Make sure to specifically state the issues you want to improve on, and what solutions can be done in order to fix them. Do this tactfully and constructively; it would be ideal if you had a script for this stage.

This step can also harbor a less formal disciplinary process. For example, if an incident is small enough you may do some quick course correcting.

If there’s a need to meet multiple times in order to facilitate the disciplinary process, do so. You must advise your employee as necessary.

At this stage you already need to start keeping track of what you discuss with your employees and ensure it’s written down somewhere, like a word file, to document the disciplinary process.

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