Disciplinary action which follows a prescribed process that is fair and consistent can create positive results for both the employee and the employer. Management can reinforce performance objectives as well as employee conduct, while employees can refocus their energies in changing their behaviors and work habits to better meet management’s expectations.
The following tips can assist employers in taking effective disciplinary action:
- Establish Regular Communications: Frequent communication regarding conduct and performance expectations will keep problems to a minimum.
- Consistent and Fair Procedures for Discipline: Managers should involve HR at the beginning when action is being considered and follow HR’s guidance on the process and next steps.
- Obtain the Facts First: An investigation into any misconduct should be fair, prompt and objective. Consider the facts from both sides of the issue and make no assumptions regarding fault.
- Historical Data: Compare the circumstances and disciplinary action being considered with similar events from the past to validate your consistency and fairness in this case. Also consider the individual employee’s disciplinary record. Has this employee been disciplined before, or is this a “first offense”?
- Documentation: Maintaining proper documentation of any disciplinary action is absolutely essential. This is your audit trail of what led up to the action that was taken and will serve as your defense down the road if questioned or audited.
Training on the disciplinary process for supervisors and other levels of management is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to disciplinary action. Disciplinary action is for the purpose of informing the employee of a need for change; setting the expectations clearly without confusion, anger, sarcasm or mixed messages. The action plan for needed improvement must be clear, specific and measurable performance. The employee should be asked if s/he understands what must be done and by when. Be sure to include a statement about the consequences for not meeting these objectives (ie., further disciplinary action up to and including termination).
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