The Employee Discipline Process

An employee discipline policy is an important part of your performance management system. Its purpose is to ensure your workforce abides by the organization's rules and procedures. The type of discipline policy your company has depends on the business philosophy. Many companies have a progressive discipline policy, while others embrace a positive coaching philosophy to sustain good performance among the work force.

  1. Progressive Discipline

    • Progressive discipline policies include a series of steps that supervisors and managers follow when an employee's performance or behavior falls below company expectations. The first step in a progressive discipline policy is usually a verbal warning. A supervisor informs the employee of the misstep and provides guidance on how to correct the error. If poor performance or behavioral issues continue, the employee may be subject to further discipline, such as a written warning. Typical progressive discipline policies call for two to three written warnings before an employee is terminated. For serious infractions, the employee could be subject to immediate suspension or termination without the series of warnings.

    Positive Coaching Policy

    • A modern form of employee corrective action is positive reinforcement. Companies that practice positive reinforcement aim to restructure the employer-employee relationship to make corrective action less punitive. Human resources experts who advocate positive corrective action claim that progressive disciplinary policies reduce the work relationship to an adult-child relationship rather than adult colleagues in the workplace. Positive corrective action requires the supervisor and employee to work together in developing a plan of action to improve performance or behavior. The employee is given an opportunity to reflect on what caused the performance or behavioral issue and suggest what steps can be taken to prevent further issues.

    Documentation

    • Documentation is an essential component of any discipline policy, whether it's positive corrective action or a progressive discipline policy. Supervisors and managers document the performance issue, their discussions with employees and the action necessary for correction. The documentation then becomes part of the employee's personnel file and may be referred to in the future should poor performance or behavior continue. Some policies permit the removal of disciplinary documentation if the employee sustains good behavior and performance for a year or more.

    Employee Discipline Communication

    • The best way to communicate your policies is through new-hire orientation and a well-constructed employee handbook. New-hire orientation provides employees with guidelines and the opportunity to ask questions for clarification of company policies. Your employee handbook is the take-away to which employees can refer whenever they need to re-read policies for a better understanding. It's important to keep your employee handbook up-to-date; many companies revise their handbooks annually.

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