What is the best way to discipline an employee?

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Answered by: Charity, An Expert in the Management - General Category
When a manager must discipline an employee, the potential exists for a very uncomfortable situation to occur. For managers who are new to an environment, he or she should internally ask one question before proceeding with disciplinary tactics: Have I clearly established my expectations? This truly is step one of successfully managing difficult employee performance issues.

Setting expectations may be as simple as providing each employee with a policy manual and reviewing the topics to ensure the employee understands what is expected. The policy manual may not address every possible situation that could arise with employee performance, however, so common sense must be applied. If clear expectations have NOT been set, then a manager may wish to use the session as a coaching opportunity for the employee rather than discipline.

In the case that the individual has been coached previously or that the infraction is so serious that coaching is not appropriate, it then becomes necessary to discipline an employee. The manager should ensure that he or she is calm before beginning the session so that the employee is treated fairly and courteously. The employee should be taken aside to a discreet setting and should never be disciplined or admonished in front of other employees.

A manager may wish to have another management-level witness present in the circumstance that the employee is the opposite gender, to ensure the safety of both manager and employee. State the reason for the session in a clear and concise way. If this was a violation of policy that information should be included.

An example of this type of statement could be "Employee, I have called you in here to discuss your attendance. Company policy states that more than three absences per month without a doctor's note are considered excessive. In the past month you have been absent 4 times without a note which is in violation of this policy and subject to discipline. This will be considered your written warning and additional unexcused absences may result in further discipline, including possible termination."

The manager may take time to explain to the employee how the violation impacts business. In the case of poor attendance, one might use the statement "During those four shifts that you missed, your co-workers had to do twice as much work for us to keep up and our customers suffered as a result."

Ensure that the employee understands the reason for the discussion as well as the potential result of poor performance or behavior before excusing them to return to working. For best practices a manager should consistently document any coaching or discipline sessions on paper so that a written trail exists to support lawful termination if further discipline issues arise. It may also be helpful to have the employee sign a discipline notice and provide them with a copy.

Each manager will develop his or her own style to discipline an employee, but using the basics of setting expectations, clearly explaining what violation occurred, and advising the employee of the potential outcome of future issues will help the manager effectively administer discipline in a way that can be understood by almost all employees.

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