Handling Disciplinary Needs

There are times when management needs to discipline employees in order to correct undesirable performance and behavior. 

Employee discipline is a process of corrective action used to enforce organizational rules. Problem employees are most often affected by the discipline system. Fortunately, problem employees represent a small percentage of the workforce in most organizations. However, if managers fail to deal with problem employees promptly, work outcomes are often negatively affected. 

Effective discipline should be aimed at problem behaviors, not at the employee’s personality. The goal is to improve performance. Usually, a small number of employees create the vast amount of discipline work for managers. A disciplinary process can demonstrate to employees the organization’s commitment to due process and just cause on employment actions. 

However, managers may be reluctant to use discipline for many reasons, including an organizational culture of avoiding discipline, lack of support by higher management, fear of loss of friendship, avoidance of time loss, and fear of lawsuits. 

The two most common approaches to discipline are positive discipline and progressive discipline. Regardless of approach, certain standards should be applied to the administration of employee discipline. The positive discipline approach builds on the philosophy that violations are actions that usually can be corrected constructively and without penalty. Progressive discipline incorporates steps that become progressively more severe and are designed to change the employee’s inappropriate behavior.

Progressive discipline refers to a process by which an employee with disciplinary problems progresses through a series of disciplinary stages until the problem is corrected. Most progressive discipline procedures use verbal and written reprimands and suspension before resorting to dismissal or termination. Not all steps in progressive discipline are followed in every case. Certain serious offenses are exempted from progressive procedures and may result in immediate termination.

With positive discipline, the disciplinary process is not punitive. Rather, it focuses on constructive feedback and encourages employees to take responsibility for trying to improve their behavior or performance at work. When using the positive discipline approach, managers focus on fact finding and guidance to encourage desirable behaviors rather than penalties to discourage undesirable behaviors. The key to positive discipline is to help employees identify their problems early and address causes of problematic behavior. 

Both approaches consist of four steps: verbal warning, written reprimand, suspension, and termination. However, progressive discipline is more administrative and process oriented than positive discipline. Following the progressive sequence ensures that both the nature and seriousness of the problem are clearly communicated to the employee. Because of legal concerns, managers must understand discipline and know how to administer it properly.

We can help manage the employee discipline process for your organization to bring out the best in your employees. Contact us to find out more about how we can help.