Disciplinary Action in the Workplace: Best Practices & Strategies
Disciplinary action is a formal procedure taken by employers to address employee misconduct or poor performance. It is an essential aspect of HR management in the workplace, aimed at addressing and correcting employee behavior that goes against the company’s policies and standards. The process of disciplinary action is used to maintain a safe and productive work environment, ensure compliance with company policies and regulations, and enhance employee performance.
In this article, we will cover the various aspects of disciplinary action in the workplace, including its definition, types of misconduct, and the different types of disciplinary procedures. We will also discuss the most common type of disciplinary procedure, performance improvement plans, and provide best practices for managers and employees to follow during the disciplinary process.
What is Disciplinary Action?
Disciplinary action refers to the steps taken by an employer to correct or address an employee’s behavior that is in violation of company policies or standards. Disciplinary action can range from verbal warnings to termination, depending on the severity of the misconduct.
Types of Misconduct in the Workplace
Examples of employee misconduct that may result in disciplinary action include:
- Poor Performance: Employees are expected to perform their job duties to the best of their abilities. If an employee consistently fails to meet job performance expectations, it may result in disciplinary action.
- Unprofessional Conduct: Employees are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner while at work. This includes treating coworkers, customers, and clients with respect and avoiding inappropriate behavior, such as harassment, discrimination, or threats.
- Violation of Company Policies: Employees are expected to follow all company policies and procedures. This includes attendance policies, dress code policies, and any other rules outlined in the employee handbook.
What are 3 Examples of Misconduct?
There are many forms of misconduct that can result in disciplinary action. Three common examples include:
- Insubordination: Refusing to follow a lawful and reasonable directive from a supervisor
- Theft or fraud: Stealing company property or engaging in fraudulent activities
- Harassment: Creating a hostile work environment through abusive or threatening behavior towards coworkers or customers.
What are the Types of Disciplinary Procedures?
There are several types of disciplinary procedures that employers can use to address employee misconduct or poor performance, including:
- Verbal Warning: A verbal warning is a simple, informal conversation between the manager and the employee. This type of warning is meant to serve as a reminder of the company’s expectations and is typically used for minor offenses.
- Written Warning: A written warning is a more formal step in the disciplinary process. It may be used for more serious offenses and serves as a documented record of the incident.
- Performance Improvement Plan (PIP): The most common type of disciplinary procedure is a PIP. A performance improvement plan (PIP) is a formal procedure in which an employee is given specific goals and expectations to meet within a certain time frame. The purpose of a PIP is to give the employee an opportunity to improve their performance.
- Suspension: Suspension is a temporary removal from work. This type of disciplinary action may be used when an employee’s behavior is so disruptive that they cannot be allowed to remain on the job.
- Termination: Termination is the most severe form of disciplinary action. It may be used when an employee has engaged in serious misconduct or has repeatedly failed to meet performance standards.
Strategies to Mitigate the Consequences of Misconduct
In some cases, the severity of employee behavior or performance issues may escalate to the point where legal action is necessary. To avoid this outcome, it’s crucial for managers to take proactive and corrective actions such as performance improvement plans or progressive discipline. This can help address the issue before it becomes a more serious problem.
However, if the behavior or performance continues to be a concern, a formal disciplinary procedure, such as a written warning or termination, may be necessary. In these situations, it’s important for managers to have documented evidence of previous corrective actions taken and their effectiveness. This helps to ensure that any formal disciplinary measures are taken in a timely, appropriate, and legally defensible manner.
When conducting disciplinary action, it is important to follow best practices to ensure a fair and effective process. Some best practices include:
- Following established procedures: Employers should have clear, written disciplinary procedures in place and should follow these procedures consistently.
- Documenting incidents: Employers should document incidents of employee misconduct or poor performance to provide a clear and objective record of the situation.
- Involving a support person: An employee has the right to have a support person present during disciplinary meetings. This person can be a union representative or a friend or family member.
- Conducting progressive discipline: Progressive discipline involves starting with a verbal warning and escalating to more serious forms of discipline as needed. This approach gives the employee an opportunity to improve their behavior and is typically more effective than jumping straight to termination.
- Avoiding unfair dismissal: Employers should be cautious to avoid unfair dismissal, which can result from taking disciplinary action without a valid reason or without following established procedures.
- Offering a performance improvement plan: A performance improvement plan can be an effective tool for addressing poor performance. This type of plan should set specific goals and expectations for the employee to meet and should provide a timeline for improvement.
In conclusion, disciplinary action is an important tool for maintaining a safe and productive workplace. However, it’s important to handle it in a fair and effective manner. By following best practices such as documenting incidents, having clear policies in place, using progressive discipline, and involving employees in the process, managers can ensure that disciplinary action is used to improve employee behavior and performance, rather than simply punishing employees.
By taking a thoughtful and well-planned approach to disciplinary action, managers can help create a positive work environment that supports employee growth and development.