Discipline in the Workplace

Discipline in the Workplace

What do you do when one of your employees is constantly messing up? What should your response be to that off-colour joke? What are your options for addressing the poor performance of that one employee?

In the workplace, most common employee problems arise from incompetence or misconduct. The good news is, neither of these is likely intentional! But what are your options for fairly and effectively disciplining the offending employee and remedying the situation?

Punitive Discipline is Unacceptable

While employers have a reasonable right to manage their workplace, discipline should never be punitive. That is, you should not punish an employee for their wrongdoing or incompetence. You should not take away privileges or incentives, require an employee to work extra hours or unfavourable shifts. You cannot reduce their pay or hours of work. You can’t withhold pay or humiliate the employee. Taking any of these actions may result in a constructive dismissal.

Instead, workplace discipline should be corrective and progressive.

Corrective Discipline

Most employees want to do right by their employers. They want to meet the expectations of their position and excel at their job. It is unlikely that an employee is messing up or misbehaving on purpose.

In many cases, an employee’s failure to meet expectation arises from simple ignorance or incompetence. This might not sound encouraging on the face of it. However, both ignorance and incompetence can often be easily remedied by clarifying expectations of performance and behaviour. The problem could be as simple as the employee not knowing how to use a program or being unaware of a procedure.

When correcting an employee’s behaviour or performance, communication is key. You need to clarify expectations, offer clear direction, training and support for improvement to help them confidently meet these expectations and give them a fair chance to improve their skill or behaviour.

In short, tell your employee what is wrong, what is expected and how it can be corrected.

Progressive Discipline

Progressive discipline gives your employee the chance to improve. In the case of an employee being unaware of expectations or unable to meet them, progressive discipline gives them the opportunity to keep their job, productively improve, and keep your organization running.

Change wont necessarily happen overnight. It can take time to learn new skills or behaviours. You should therefore also describe a reasonable timeline and deadline for improvements.

Progressive discipline usually starts with a verbal warning, progresses to a written warning, then a suspension and finally, as a last resort, termination. From the beginning, you should explain the consequences of a failure to improve on the part of the employee.

Documentation, Policies and Procedures

A key component of implementing any progressive performance management in the workplace is to document the process. You should keep a detailed written record of any meetings, warnings, training sessions or performance reviews. You should start by recording the misbehaviour or poor performance as soon as it starts so that you can clearly point to the frequency and severity of the infractions. Detailing your performance reviews will make it easier for you to see your employee’s progress (or lack thereof) and protect yourself from accusations of discriminations by having clear evidence to justify your actions.

You should also have clear policies and procedures that set out expectations of performance and behaviour. These policies and procedures should also explain your process for progressive discipline and performance reviews. They should detail disciplinary processes and outcomes. This way, your employees will know from the start what is expected of them and how their performance will be addressed should it fall short of workplace standards.

Policies and procedures hold everyone accountable. They ensure all employees you’re your expectations and confirm your fair and consistent treatment in addressing any problems should they arise.

KCY at LAW Can Help

Corrective and progressive discipline are practical ways to solve employee workplace problems. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. It can be costly to fire an employee and solicit, hire, train and integrate someone new. KCY at LAW can help you design effected performance management policies for your workplace and consult with you on your workplace discipline strategy. To book your consultation, call 905-639-0999.