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Guide for Busy Managers: Strawman Proposals

Here we talk about the following aspects of Employee Discipline Procedures:

• Setting the stage for Employee Discipline Procedures
• Issuing Warnings
• The Progressive Discipline Meeting
• Taking Corrective Action

Setting the Stage for Employee Discipline Procedures

Many leaders fail to do their homework prior to starting Employee Discipline Procedures. Here are some things to do first:

• Articulate clear expectations. You can't take an employee to task on things they weren't aware they are accountable for. There are several of mechanisms to articulate those expectations:
- Job descriptions
- Performance agreements
- Regular one on one meetings
• Document everything. A key part of Employee Discipline Procedures is the paper-trail. You should have a file on each employee, and that file should contain details of all communication pertaining to performance.
- Notes about informal talks
- Any emails regarding performance.
- Documentation from more formal interventions.
• Ensure you are able to focus on the behavior, not the person. If you make it personal, it will be much more difficult, and you might incur needless legal risk.
• Have a Progressive Discipline process. You must begin your Employee Discipline Procedures knowing the various steps, and how it might end.

Progressive Discipline Process

Your first step in Employee Discipline Procedures is to check with your Human Resources department or person to completely understand what systems and processes are already in place. If there aren't any such tools, use the following as a starting point for your Employee Discipline Procedures:

1. Ensure expectations are clear.
2. Highlight the difference between desired and actual performance. You must be as specific as possible when describing this gap.
3. Issue verbal warning – Tell the person specifically what you want them to change, and in what time frame. If there is a knowledge or skill gap, you will need to assist them in bridging this gap. Write down the details of the verbal warning (date, time, discussion points, and any witnesses present).
4. Give written warning with consequences. If the performance still hasn't improved, you must issue a formal written warning. This should contain very clear consequences as to what will happen if performance does not improve. Once again you must be very specific about the gap between desired performance and actual performance. You also must specify timelines for improvement, and the next meeting.
5. Give 2nd written warning. This will have all the elements of the first letter, but also contains a much more urgent sense of the consequences of continued poor performance.
6. Take corrective action – a demotion, a suspension, or termination. At this stage it will be largely dependent on the circumstances, but you need to follow through with the promised consequences in the previous warnings.

How to Issue Warnings in the Employee Discipline Procedures

• Highlight the gap between the desired performance and the actual performance.
• Issue a verbal warning. Be as specific as possible, and make suggestions for improvement. You must document the verbal warning with the date and time, the details of the conversation, the follow up actions discussed, and any witnesses to the conversation.
• Give a written warning. Be specific. Be clear on the consequences
• Give further warnings after an adequate period of time has passed to allow him/her to make the required improvements.

The Discipline Meeting

• What to say:
- Clarify the process, and what is going to happen
- Give in as much detail as possible with behavioral examples the deficiencies of performance or transgression that has brought everybody to this meeting.
- Point out the negative impact to the organization and to the people that the undesirable performance has.
- Describe in detail the desired behavior or action, and reference when and where this has been made clear to the employee previously.
• How to Say It:
- Present case in neutral language
- Be calm
- Be as specific as possible (when, where, how many, etc.)
- Focus on the facts
- Be professional
• Ask the employee to reply
- Listen carefully
- Ask for clarification if necessary.
- Ask the employee for comments or potential solutions to resolve the issue.

Taking Corrective Action

Corrective action as part of your Employee Discipline Procedures, can take a variety of forms. You need to figure out what will be most likely to solve your problem. In some cases, it might be suspension, in others it might be termination. One thing you must ensure when you get to this stage is that there are no surprises to the employee. There should have been adequate warning and notice before you ever advance to this stage of the Employee Discipline Procedures.

Improve your leadership skills! Visit www.wilymanager.com for more information about employee discipline procedures and more Just-in-Time Management Advice.

Watch our video about Employee Discipline Procedures:

Learn More About Employee Discipline Procedures

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