It can happen to even the best leaders: An employee (or employees) fails to follow company policies. Perhaps they are chronically late, take too many breaks during the day, or spend too much time updating their Facebook statuses and not checking on client status. Whatever the offense, the outcome is that productivity is down, and the employees that are following the rules are starting to get frustrated.
Many leaders overlook occasional minor offenses. After all, who isn’t late for work every once in a while? However, when employees habitually break the rules, it’s important to take action, since many people cite inconsistent enforcement of the rules as a reason for leaving their jobs. The problem, though, is that if you don’t take the right action, you could be setting yourself up for a disgruntled employee, or even worse, a lawsuit brought by an employee who feels he or she was unfairly disciplined or terminated.
Covering your bases when addressing rule infractions is the primary motivation for a progressive discipline policy. A progressive discipline policy addresses employee behavior with an increasingly punitive series of sanctions, ranging from warnings up to termination. A clearly outlined set of responses to rule infractions not only ensures consistency when it comes to discipline, it also provides guidelines for leaders who may be uncomfortable or unprepared to reprimand their colleagues.
The most important part of a progressive discipline policy is a written policy regarding behavioral expectations. In other words, you must tell your employees what is and isn’t allowed. Some points might seem like common sense, like showing up to work on time, but if you do not clearly articulate your expectations and what constitutes a violation, an employee could potentially claim discrimination when disciplined for a violation.
Therefore, the first step to a progressive discipline policy is to outline the punishable offenses. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be overly legalistic, but you want to create a comprehensive list of offenses that could lead to progressive discipline. These might include chronic tardiness or absences, failure to meet deadlines, failure to meet quality standards, inappropriate use of company Internet or phones, failure to meet job requirements, arguing with co-workers, taking too many breaks, taking extended breaks, insubordination, and harassment.
Keep in mind that in some states, enacting a progressive discipline policy could be viewed as a requirement to use it; in other words, employees may “test the limits,” expecting that they will only face verbal warnings, even though they have committed a fireable offense. Therefore, you must carefully consider the behaviors that will be covered by the progressive discipline policy, and outline the offenses that are exempt from that policy and could lead to immediate termination.
Progressive discipline is exactly what it sounds like: The punishment progressively gets more severe as infractions continue.
In most cases, progressive discipline includes four levels.
Again, not all offenses can be handled appropriately with a progressive approach to discipline, and some — such as violence or theft — may warrant immediate termination. However, by maintaining a progressive discipline policy, you can handle discipline problems fairly and consistently, and keep your employees happy in the process.Back to blog list