Dealing with employee performance issues or workplace incidents is something managers often shy away from. It can be awkward and unpleasant, or some managers feel it will create unnecessary stress or frustration. But employee performance issues cannot be ignored, or they will snowball into bigger issues.
Discipline should not simply be “writing up” an employee when an infraction has been made. The purpose of discipline is to correct behavior, not to punish or embarrass employees. Communication, coaching and mentoring may resolve issues without having to discipline employees. However, if unacceptable behaviour is a significant or a persistent problem, or if the employee is involved in misconduct that cannot be tolerated, discipline should be used to help correct the problem.
While the progressive discipline process may seem straight forward, there are several things to contemplate before determining the appropriate course of action in the situation.
Here are some things you need to consider before disciplining an employee:
Do you have a documented policy, procedure, training, etc. that outlines the company’s rules, procedures and expected behaviours?
Have these been communicated to the employees?
Do you have proof of the documentation? (i.e. training records, orientation sign off, policy sign offs, meeting attendance sheet, emails, etc.)
Do employees understand the consequences of not following the policies and procedures?
Are you sure that an infraction was actually committed by the employee?
In some cases, you may need to investigate to find out if an infraction actually occurred or if the employee in question was involved (i.e. harassment situations).
Are you consistently enforcing the policies/rules and following the discipline policy?
Meaning, are all employees being treated in the same manner? (i.e. if you have several employees not wearing PPE are they all disciplined as per the policy?)
When it comes to following the progressive discipline process are you communicating the next steps?
The expectations for improvements going forward.
Timelines for follow up.
Consequences of continued inappropriate behaviour – what is the next step in the process? Written warning? Suspension? Termination?
In some situations, it is okay to take a less formal approach. If no policy/rule/standard is created or is not properly communicated or understood, a coaching session to review the rules may be the most effective course of action. Just make sure that discipline is warranted and that you are still applying the policies consistently and documenting the steps that you are taking.