A 5 Step Procedure for Effectively Disciplining Employees

Word Discipline on SignToday’s post is by Allison Rice of Amsterdam Printing.

There is nothing more rewarding for a manager than rewarding employees for a job well done. Whether it’s handing out well-deserved compliments that you know will make your employees feel satisfied, telling them how they contributed to the success of an initiative or a project, or even giving workers a bonus or some other kind of tangible reward, where appropriate – these are the kind of moments that make everyone feel good.

On the flip side, there is often nothing harder than figuring out how to discipline a worker under your supervision when they have done something wrong. If this is done badly, it can sour the working relationship and have lasting negative effects on the employee’s productivity and willingness to accept direction. It is important to make this as much of a learning experience as possible, where the employee recognizes that they made a mistake and is motivated to improve. If you are too harsh, too quickly, they are likely to become resentful and insubordinate instead.

Here are some tips for how to go about communicating with an employee who is going down the wrong path:

1) Start out by explaining clearly and objectively what the behavior is that the employee needs to correct. Are they regularly coming in late to work? Are they spending too much time surfing the internet? Are they failing to follow instructions or communicate effectively with their co-workers? It is particularly important that you highlight any relevant company policies that they may be violating, or explain how their behavior is incompatible with the company’s mission statement or philosophy.

2) Once you’ve directed the employee’s attention to the specific behavior that is problematic, explain to them how it impacts others around them. For example, if they come in late, does someone else end up having to cover their station? If they are spending too much time on the internet, does it mean they aren’t responding to phone calls fast enough or meeting deadlines for projects? If they are spending too much time on personal calls at work, is it making it difficult for workers in nearby cubicles to concentrate?

3) Work with them to come up with a strategy and timeline for improvement. Straightforward violations of company policy or rules are simpler – the behavior needs to stop immediately. On the other hand, if the problem relates to the employee’s working style – a failure to communicate or follow instructions – they may need more guidance and a more patient approach.

4) Be clear about the consequences for further issues. Will the employee be demoted? Will the employee be fired? When will this happen? Will it be the next time they come in late, or do they get a certain number of warnings? There should be no ambiguity that the employee can exploit later by saying that it wasn’t clear to them what your expectations were.

5) Document the interaction and place this record of what you told the employee in their file. You can also give the employee a written warning that highlights the objectionable behavior, the timeline for improvement, and the consequences if the behavior continues. To make the process feel more collaborative, you and the employee can also work together to come up with a written plan for improvement so that they feel that they are making a positive contribution and taking the first step in the right direction.

People respond differently to criticism. Some employees will be grateful for the feedback and eager to improve. Others may become defensive or even angry. The key is to be firm, but also fair. Having a clear procedure like this one that you follow in all cases with all employees can ensure that no one feels singled out or treated more severely than others.

What kind of experiences have you had with disciplining employees?

Allison Rice– Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in custom engraved pens and other items such as calendars, bags, and water bottles. Make sure to check out Amsterdam Printing’s blog for business advice you can start using today!

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2 Responses to “A 5 Step Procedure for Effectively Disciplining Employees”

  1. Jan says:

    Great post. One recommendation I would make is that before Step 3, spend time to get agreement on the problem and its impact. If you don’t have agreement before you move on to possible solutions, you might not have true commitment to change. Thanks!


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