Steps to discipline employees
The following disciplinary steps are listed in order of least to most severe. use the least severe step that results in the behavior you want. If that step doesn’t do the trick, move down the list to the next step:
1. Verbal counseling:
This form of discipline is the most common and the least severe, and most managers take this step first when they want to correct an employee’s performance. Verbal counseling can range from a simple, spontaneous correction performed in the hallway to a more formal, sit-down meeting in your office.
Note: You usually don’t document verbal counseling in your employees’ files.
2. Written counseling:
When verbal counseling doesn’t have the desired effect on performance or when the magnitude of performance problems warrants its use, written counseling should be applied. Written counseling takes the counseling process one step further by documenting your employees’ performance shortcomings in the form of a written document, most often a memo. Written counseling is presented to employees in one-on-one sessions in the supervisor’s office and, after the employee has an opportunity to read the document, verbal discussions regarding the employee’s plans to improve his or her performance ensue. This documentation is placed in the employee’s personnel file.
3. Negative performance evaluation:
If verbal and written counseling fail to improve your employee’s performance, a negative performance evaluation will ensue. Because performance evaluations are generally given only annually, if at all, they’re not usually very useful for dealing with acute situations. However, if verbal and written counseling is not having the impact you seek, negative performance evaluations are a good next step.
Termination is the ultimate form of discipline for employees who are performing unsatisfactorily, and it is your best and only—option when all other measures fail. Terminating employees is not fun; consider it as an option only after you exhaust all other avenues. In these days of wrongful termination lawsuits
and multimillion-dollar judgments, you must document employees’ performance shortcomings very well and support them with the facts before you terminate an employee, not after.
Dealing with Workplace misconduct: Misconduct is an entirely different issue from performance problems, so it has its own discipline track. Misconduct is generally considered a much more serious offense than performance shortcomings because it indicates a fundamental problem with your employees’ attitudes or ethical beliefs.
The discipline that results from misconduct has more immediate consequences to your employees than does the discipline that results from performance problems. Improving performance may take time—weeks or even months—but when you discipline your employees for misconduct, you put them on notice that their behavior won’t be tolerated. Failure to immediately cure the misconduct can lead quickly to suspension and termination.
The following discipline steps in this second track are listed from least severe to most severe. The particular level of discipline you’ll select depends on the severity of the misconduct and the employee’s work record:
1. Verbal warning:
If the misconduct is minor or if this is a first offense, the verbal warning provides the least severe option for putting your employees on notice that their behavior won’t be tolerated. In many cases of misconduct, a verbal warning will be all you need to turn around your employee’s behavior.
2. Written warning:
Not every employee will get the message when you give them a verbal warning, so you may need to move up to the written warning. Written warnings are considered to be more serious than a verbal warning because the warning is documented in your employees’ personnel files. Written warnings are performed by an employee’s immediate supervisor.
Repeated or serious misconduct results in a reprimand, which is generally performed in much the same way as a written warning. The difference is that a manager higher up in the organization gives the reprimand instead of the employee’s immediate supervisor. The reprimand makes clear that it is the employee’s last chance to correct his or her behavior before suspension or termination.
A suspension, or mandatory leave without pay, is used when other, less severe attempts at employee discipline fail to cure serious or repeated misconduct. Employees are also given nondisciplinary suspensions while they’re being investigated on charges of misconduct, although employees are usually paid while the manager or other company official reviews the case.
When employee misconduct is extreme or repeated, then termination may be your best choice in disciplining a worker. Termination is usually the immediate option for extreme violations of safety rules, theft, gross insubordination, and other serious misconduct.
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