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Discipline Tips to Protect Your Company

Guest blog from Pamela A. Restrepo, Communication Specialist, HRIS Payroll Software: clear-cut guidelines regarding behavior and expectations can help a company to establish consistency. However, when rules are broken or expectations are not met, companies often fail to follow through with that consistency as it relates to discipline. This can lead to general dissatisfaction among employees and managers, workers’ compensation claims by terminated employees, and even lawsuits.  To avoid these unfortunate situations, it is important to formulate a strategy regarding discipline and stick to that strategy in every single situation. The following tips may be helpful when establishing a disciplinary strategy.

Consider Progressive Discipline. Many companies use progressive discipline to correct employee performance issues. There are generally five steps of progressive discipline: verbal warning, written warning, final written warning, suspension, and termination. Progressive discipline systems are fair to employees because there are several warnings given that provide a chance to change behaviors and performance. When employees are terminated, courts generally recognize that employees had a fair opportunity to change behaviors when a progressive discipline system was used.

Communicate Disciplinary Policies from the Beginning.  Disciplinary policies should not be introduced to employees when something goes wrong, but rather, right from the start. Disciplinary policies should be established with the rules during orientation or onboarding. Letting employees know exactly what the rules are and what will happen if the rules are not followed establishes expectations in a fair way and gives managers guidelines to follow that are more likely to be effective.

Document All Incidents.  Whether progressive discipline is used or another system is established, all incidents should be documented. Even initial incidents that prompt a verbal warning should be documented so that there is a paper trail established if an employee does eventually have to be terminated. If your company uses HRIS software, it may be easier to document incidents and attach them to employee files so that these incidents can be considered when it comes time for appraisals. This may also help to protect your company if there is ever a dispute regarding discrimination in raises.

Make Sure Employees Understand Reasons for Rules.  If employees feel that rules are arbitrary or unnecessary, they are much more likely to break those rules. While the reasons behind the rules may seem obvious to managers and employers, those reasons may not be obvious to employees, so it can be very helpful to clearly communicate them. Taking the time to do this may help employees to feel more included in the workings of the company, so they may feel more engaged and loyal to the business.

Maintain Consistency among Employees.  One of the biggest issues that companies tend to have with discipline is a failure to maintain consistency from one employee to another. In many cases, employees that generally perform well are given a free pass when it comes to certain behaviors that other employees would be disciplined for. This can create conflict between employees and employers and may be viewed as discrimination if an employee is terminated, even if a record of disciplinary action is available.

Discipline systems are easy to formulate, but are not always so easy or clear-cut to use in practice. It is important to abide closely by the rules that have been established so that your company does not come under fire and so that there is a plan in place if someone does challenge the fairness of policies and practices.