When an employee exhibits unacceptable behavior or does not do
something they should, you will need to discipline them to correct the issue.
Disciplining staff members is not just about punishing them; it’s about
creating a safe, pleasant, and fair workplace, so your team and business can
succeed. Keep reading to learn more about disciplining your employees constructively.
Choose a disciplinary method
There are several disciplinary models to use in your small
business. Some methods focus on punitive actions and others focus on
rehabilitative objectives. Choose a model that works best for your company and
that you feel comfortable using.
1. Progressive discipline
In a progressive model, the consequences increase in
severity each time the worker fails to correct the issue or behavior. This
method can protect your small business from legal action because the worker has
multiple opportunities to fix the problem. It’s often a punitive approach, but
you can add rehabilitative elements by offering training or mentoring if an
employee isn’t meeting expectations.
Common consequences include:
2. Performance improvement plans
A performance improvement plan (PIP) outlines the steps an
employee needs to take to perform at the expected level. It focuses on helping your
team member become a valuable asset to your staff and shows them that you
believe that they are capable of excelling at their job. In the plan, include:
the behavior that needs to be improved or
If an employee needs to be removed from a situation
immediately, but the offending behavior does not warrant termination, consider
reassigning or suspending the team member.
If you reassign someone, place them in a new position and
offer training to help them succeed.
A suspended worker is typically not allowed to come to work
until certain conditions are met. For example, you may suspend them for a
specific length of time or until they complete specific training, such as anger
Address problems before they get out of hand
If you ignore a problem after it has been brought to your
attention, you’re essentially saying the behavior is acceptable.
Address the problem quickly by asking the employee to have a private conversation. Tell them clearly and factually what the problem is and share specific examples. After you’ve answered any questions, work with your staff member to create a plan to fix the problem. Then, monitor them to ensure everything is resolved.
Write your policies in clear, easy-to-understand language
and ask your employees to sign a statement saying that they read and understood
them. This will decrease the chances that you will need to discipline your team
because they’ll know what’s permitted and required.
Anytime you have a conversation with an employee about their
behavior, write down everything that was discussed, including next steps. Ask
the staff member to sign the document to verify that they were part of the
conversation, understand what is expected of them moving forward, and are aware
of potential consequences if the behavior doesn’t change.
By documenting everything, you’ll be able to make a case for
termination if it comes to that. If you fire someone without documentation,
then you leave yourself open to legal consequences.
If an employee changes their behavior, the documentation can
help you track their growth and progress.