How to Implement an Effective Discipline Policy in 5 Easy Steps
Be prepared to stop negative employee behavior in its tracks. Establish the right policies and procedures to handle employee discipline before it’s too late.
If you have even one employee then you will have to deal with HR issues. Read on for some key tools, tips and secrets to addressing employee discipline and sleep better at night knowing your business isn’t being held hostage by a few bad apples.
In a recent COSE WebEd Series Webinar, Cheryl Perez, founder and president of BIG-HR, discussed steps to take when an issue needing employee discipline arises in your company.
Have you ever been in a situation where:
- You are worrying about a few poor performing employees?
- You are being taken advantage of by employees who are always calling off, running late or performing poorly?
- You are concerned that an employee might retaliate?
- You are wondering if a disgruntled employee could negatively impact your business?
Make sure you act fast enough to correct the negative behavior; give yourself the confidence of knowing you’re handling everything right and in the best interest of your business. Follow these five steps.
Step. 1. Set up your workplace rules of conduct. This should be an important feature inside your employee manual. Employees must know they have fair and reasonable notice of expectations. The number one mistake of small to mid-size businesses is they don’t have an effective manual in place or they don’t provide employees with it except on the first day of orientation. And often times it’s not kept up to date. Company rules should be clearly communicated in writing to all employees, must be compliant with state and federal laws, and must be consistently enforced.
Rules of conduct within the manual should include day-to-day matters—such as tardiness, attendance and dress code—and more serious matters—such as violence, theft and harassment.
Perez provided the following tips for your employee manual:
- Customize it so you communicate exactly what you’re looking for.
- Communicate your policies clearly and through a formalized training process, preferably on a yearly basis. Review the manual with your entire staff at the beginning of the year. Walk your team through the rules, making sure they have a clear understanding and sign off on it.
- Meet with your managers separately to communicate the rules so you know they are enforcing your expectations.
And she recommended that it includes information on the following basic policies:
Step 2. Establish an investigation procedure. This lets people know you are fair and you are looking into any issues that arise at your company. This is especially good for more serious allegations such as harassment, being under the influence, theft, etc.
If an allegation is brought up against an employee, it should be promptly, fairly and thoroughly investigated. Once the investigation is conducted and you have all information, you then need to make an independent determination of facts and circumstances.
Before you find yourself in a position where you need to conduct an investigation, it is important that you establish protocol. Determine who will conduct the investigation, what process will be used and within what timeframe. Communicate this in advance to everybody on your staff.
Step 3. Understand what an effective progressive action policy looks like. Here is a rundown of the order in which Cheryl recommends taking action.
- Counseling: “You’ve been late, don’t let it happen again.”
- Verbal warning: Sit down and give them a formal verbal warning. Let them know what will happen next. Document it, but informally.
- Written warning #1: Write it up and have another manager or witness sign off on it.
- Written warning #2: Do everything in the first written warning, but also include a performance improvement plan.
As mentioned in the fourth bullet above, a performance improvement plan can be an important part in taking disciplinary action. Let the employee know that if they don’t follow these expectations then you will move to the next step in the disciplinary process. Spell out the expectations and be sure to give them the opportunity to fix the behavior.
Step 4. Provide employees with the opportunity to appeal. Your policies and procedures regarding employee discipline should include having in place a grievance and appeal process. Doing so makes it clear that your business practices fair discipline and that employees are given the opportunity to appeal decisions. Showing your due diligence and giving them the chance to say why they don’t agree helps to clearly communicates fairness.
Step 5. Determine the next course of action and how to implement it. When you hand out a punishment for a crime, make sure it’s appropriate. Consider the following options:
- Transfer the employee to a different department or office to get them out of whatever the situation is that is impeding their performance.
- Tell them they don’t get pay increases, bonuses, etc.
- Suspend them with or without pay.
The key is to always apply discipline in a fair and consistent manner. Your managers and supervisors must follow the same guidelines. You can’t be fair and consistent as a business owner but then have a supervisor who is showing favoritism. And, be sure that discipline procedures comply with federal and state laws.
Put it in writing
One of the best things you can do during an employee disciplinary process is to document everything. BIG-HR provides its clients with templates and forms for everything they need for proper record keeping.
What happens if you don’t document? You won’t have a leg to stand on. If you do end up with an accusation against an employee you won’t be able to defend yourself. If you’ve done a good job protecting yourself, communicating and documenting, then there is much less of a chance that you and your company will have to settle with the employee no matter what type of situation arises.
To watch a full replay of this webinar, check out the video below. And Be sure to register for the next COSE WebEd Series Webinar on February 20, Using Video to Amplify Your Marketing and Drive Results.