When to Take Disciplinary Action

“When an employee does something wrong, I have a conversation with them. Then I have another conversation. At what point do I need to take disciplinary action and what should it be?”

Your HR Survival Tip

It appears you don’t consider your conversations with your employees as disciplinary action. Yet, they are a mild form of it. The first time you provide any type of constructive or negative feedback to an employee, you’ve begun the disciplinary process. The level of the action, hopefully, matches the level of the problem.

The first step in a disciplinary action is often that conversation. The conversation doesn’t need to be a confrontation… consider it a friendly way to adjust what the employee is doing toward what you want the employee to do. Just don’t make it too friendly and cause your employee not to take you seriously.

We’ll hope the first conversation did the trick and everything is going smoothly. But, if not, you really should take it to the next level. Some supervisors will think the next level means they should have more conversations with the employee but that’s not what we mean.

If you need to have another conversation, don’t just make it a repeat of the previous conversation. If you keep doing the same things and the employee keeps doing the same things, nothing will change. At the very least, follow it up with a written memo or email that reiterates what was covered and your expectations. Many people comprehend better by reading something rather than just hearing it. Give your employees a chance to meet your expectations by making sure they really understand what you want.

Everything discussed thus far is based on needing your employees to make a few basic changes to their performance. If the problem is more serious, your response should be more serious, such as a final warning or unpaid suspension. Remember to be consistent in your application of any disciplinary action so it doesn’t appear discriminatory.

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