Progressive discipline helps employees understand and correct violations they have made. It also allows employers to take serious action when warranted. Following these steps also helps ensure that a discharge is fair and will stand up to legal scrutiny.
Progressive discipline is mutually beneficial.
- A structured system can take some of the guesswork out of supervisor/employee relationships.
- Employees know what penalties could come next.
- Supervisors can be confident in disciplinary decisions.
- There must be communication and collaboration, particularly in the early steps of the process.
- Communication and collaboration allow focus on what will work best for the employee to improve.
- Employees can participate in the problem-solving process, which increases engagement and likelihood of success.
- All steps should be documented in writing.
- Never promise that correcting a problem will save an employee’s job.
The first progressive discipline step is usually a verbal warning.
- Talk privately with the employee right after the act that calls for a warning.
- Calmly explain the rule, the violation, and the possible results if the problem is repeated or isn’t corrected.
- Listen with an open mind to the employee’s side.
- Give the verbal warning.
- Develop a plan for correction with the employee.
- Write dated notes about the discussion.
The second progressive discipline step is usually a written warning.
- Give written warnings only for the most serious and/or repeat violations.
- Use the appropriate form or format for the written violation.
- Consult with HR before issuing a written warning.
- State what rule was violated when and where, as well as other facts.
- Review the warning and its background privately with the employee.
- Emphasize the seriousness of the situation.
- Develop a correction plan with the employee and attach it to the warning.
- Sign the form and have the employee do so; note if the employee refuses.
- Place the form in the employee’s file.
- Monitor and document how the employee complies with the corrective action plan.
The third progressive discipline step is usually suspension without pay.
- Take this step only as a last resort before discharge.
- It gives you and the employee time to consider the next steps.
- Confer with HR on the type and length of the suspension.
- Three days is a typical time frame.
- This may not be an appropriate step for salaried employees.
- Meet with the employee, plus another supervisor or the HR representative.
- Explain the problem, its seriousness, the suspension, and the next steps.
- Sign, and have the employee sign, the necessary forms.
- Meet with the employee after the suspension to plan corrective action.
- Monitor and document how the employee follows the plan.
The final progressive discipline step is usually employee discharge.
- Take this step in consultation with HR for the most serious and/or repeated violations. Investigate charges carefully, even for the worst offenses.
- Document the investigation and all prior related actions in writing.
- Discharge the employee in a private meeting.
- Detail the reasons for the discharge.
- Have another supervisor or HR representative present.
- Explain the proper procedures for ending employment.
- Have all present sign a document on what took place in the meeting.