9 Employee Discipline Tips (From the Professionals that Use Them)

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Employee discipline is not always about punishment. So what can HR managers do to ensure that discipline is seen as progress? Here are 9 real-life employee discipline tips.

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Disciplining employees may be necessary, especially if there’s a noticeable a change in behavior that doesn’t meet your expectations.

But is discipline always about punishment? If your process is strict, employees might perceive you as authoritative and controlling, which could create a destructive atmosphere. Therefore, you need to closely monitor your disciplinary processes.

So, what can HR managers do to ensure that discipline is perceived as progress? Here are 9 real-life tips we collected from the professionals that use them:

1. Provide the right training to get them back on track (or prevent it in the first place)

Correct their behavior and set them in the right direction with a training course. Reassign them with their tasks and implement the training again, afterwards evaluate if they continue with their problem points. Reassigning your employees with the right training can serve as a reminder of how they got off track and put them back on the right direction. 
[You can also] manage employee discipline by training thoroughly and closely evaluating your employees. Instead of quarterly evaluations, try evaluating monthly in order to acknowledge any kinks in the team. Discover some preventative measures and you can avoid employee discipline in the first place.

- Leo Friedman, CEO and Founder of iPromo

2. Consistency is key

Maintain consistency and follow the policy. Be fair but consistent, anything else undermines your credibility.

- Matthew W. Burr, Human Resources Consultant at Burr Consulting, LLC

3. Create robust policies

Set expectations in writing, set consequences for not meeting those expectations and then point out why their output doesn’t meet your expectations. If employee discipline is handled in this manner, it feels less like discipline and more like the natural consequences of their behavior.

- Rich Franklin, Founder and President at KBC Staffing

4. Be sure to document everything

When I train supervisors on how to handle employee discipline, I always emphasize making sure that they have coached the employee on how to fix the problem before even beginning discipline. It’s vital they document everything they intend to discipline on so that there is a clear picture of why the discipline is occurring.

- Jeffrey Naftal, Director of Human Resources at Prince George's County Memorial Library System

5. It’s not all about punishment, create an action plan for improvement

Our company's culture embraces a corrective approach when it comes to employee discipline. For performance-related issues, the immediate supervisor holds a one-on-one meeting with the employee for a candid talk and then the supervisor is tasked with proposing ways that the employee can improve their performance and guide them in implementing the agreed action steps. This way, instead of punishment, the focus is entirely on correcting and supporting the employee to improve their performance, which in turn translates to better outcomes for the company.

- Chris Chancey, Founder of Amplio Recruiting

6. Think about the individuals

Employee discipline, just like employee motivation, is becoming more and more individualized. What works for Johnny doesn't work for Suzie, and what works for Suzie doesn't work for Betty--- so how do you figure out what disciplinary measures an employee will respond to? It's all about positioning, and knowing the employee. One person might respond well to a pep talk, another might not take that seriously and needs a more firm hand. Gather information ahead of time and make sure you have examples for each person on what they are doing right AND what they are doing wrong.

- Christy Lyons Hopkins, CEO and Principal Consultant at 4 Point Consulting

7. Discipline comes from within

If you, as a manager, are looking for ways to enforce discipline on your employees, you’re only going to fail. People don’t simply respond well to external discipline. What you need to do, is to get people to discipline themselves.

- Jesse Nieminen, Co-founder and Chairman of Viima Solutions Oy

8. Don’t let bad behavior go unchecked

Remember that your entire team is watching how you treat other team members. One bad apple left to rot will spoil the whole barrel. Your team will respect you more for calling out bad behavior quickly, while it can still be addressed without destroying office morale.

- Chris Tuff, author of The Millennial Whisperer

9. Treat employees as adults

When I think of employee discipline, I think of HR created corrective action processes. Although there have been times in my own HR career when a trail of documentation has come in handy, more often than not, starting a disciplinary conversation through the lens of a "corrective action" process has exasperated what could have been a simple conversation. In today's workplace and with a new generation of talent who value - and expect - transparency, I believe we should treat employees as adults. This means having a conversation that's less punitive and more instructive. Avoid phrases like "this can result in further disciplinary action" and focus on observable behaviors and specific solutions. Take it a step further and ask the employee how they think they can improve. This promotes ownership and diminishes the need for the employee to defend or prove the HR manager wrong.

- Christine DiDonato, Founder and President of Career Revolution, Inc.

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