Employee Discipline Procedures

"You're fired!" shouldn't necessarily be the first response in an employee discipline procedure.
"You're fired!" shouldn't necessarily be the first response in an employee discipline procedure. (Image: you're fired image by Lisa Turay from Fotolia.com)

While it may not be a manager or business owner’s favorite part of the job, employee discipline is bound to become a necessity at some point. Reprimanding employees for poor performance or bad behavior should be approached with care to ensure the best results and least complications. Having a discipline procedure in place is necessary for any work staff and each procedure should have some basic elements.

Make the Employee Aware

The first thing to remember is that a problem with an employee may only seem like a problem to you. It is very possible that the employee is not aware that what he is doing is inappropriate. Before any further discipline is required, in most cases, the employee’s direct supervisor should be instructed to make the situation clear to the employee.

If an employee shows up 10 minutes late every day as a habit, he may assume since no one has said anything that this isn’t considered a big deal. However, if a supervisor approaches him and makes him aware that it is not acceptable, then the next time he will have no excuse. This rule applies to nearly every situation.

Discipline Form

Draw up a discipline form. This form should have space for the person’s name, position, date and an area to describe the reasons for disciplinary action. The form should also have an area to write what the next course of action will be should this problem occur again.

After the employee has been made aware of his situation verbally, he should be called aside and reprimanded again for the action and be informed that he is being written up for his actions and that the paper will go into his employee file.

There should be space at the bottom of the form for three signatures. Have the employee sign the paper acknowledging or denying the action, the manager conducting the reprimand should also sign and another member of the management team (if applicable) should also sign as a witness to the warning.


When verbal and written warnings have proven to be insufficient, it is time to suspend the problem employee. A one-week suspension without pay is a severe enough penalty to determine how much the person actually wants the job. This is the first time it becomes apparent to the entire staff that there is a problem, causing possible social embarrassment and it will also hurt the employee financially.

Employees who do not take the job seriously may quit and never come back, which will permanently solve the problem. Those who come back should be treated fairly and put back into the routine. The suspension should also have been written up on another form, indicating the suspension and next course of action.


If verbal and written warnings and an unpaid suspension have failed to correct the problem with an employee then it is very likely that you will never get the performance or attitude out of this person that you require. Termination is the logical next step.

In similar fashion, call the employee aside and fill out a discipline form. Explain that the last incident caused a suspension and the next step was to fire him. Depending on the manager doing the termination, there may be a willingness to hear a final plea. However, it is unlikely that a person will change behavior at this late stage of discipline.

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