HR Management & Compliance

Train Your People on These 6 Steps of Progressive Discipline

The information in today’s issue first appeared on

Six Steps in Progressive Discipline

Customize the steps in this training outline to your own progressive discipline system to ensure your employees know how progressive discipline works in your organization.

1. Informal meetings and oral reprimands

  • Used for minor and first offenses, such as:

    —Smoking in unauthorized areas
    —Inefficient, incompetent, or negligent work performance
    —Foul or abusive language
    —Others (as outlined in your discipline policy).
  • Important to respond immediately to the offense.
  • Be consistent in enforcing all such occurrences for all employees.
  • Keep an informal log consistently to keep small things from piling up, catching you by surprise.

2. Written deficiency notices

  • Issued for repetition of the above, or first offenses, such as:

    —Unauthorized absence for 1 or 2 days
    —Sleeping on the job
    —Negligent or careless use of company property
    —Improper release of confidential information
    —Others ((as outlined in your discipline policy)
  • Judgment factors in deciding between oral or written warning

    —Is this a single incident or part of a pattern?
    —Is this likely to motivate or alienate the worker?
    —Is this a problem that could lead into a disciplinary proceeding?
    —Others (as outlined in your discipline policy)
  • Basic components of your warning form

    —Date, time, and place of the infraction
    —Factual details of the incident
  • Avoid drawing conclusions.
  • Provide enough information to assist memory in case of future lawsuit.
    —Specific rule[s] violated
    —Remedial steps recommended to avoid further action
    —Supervisor’s and employee’s signature.
  • Employee must know you are issuing a written warning.

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3. Formal evaluation conferences documented by written records

  • Used when employee continues to violate rules after an informal conference and after getting a written reprimand.
  • Require careful preparation, including reviewing employee’s records and company policies and procedures.
  • May wish or need to have another manager present.
  • Seek help from HR Department, if needed.
  • Use problem-solving techniques and procedures.

4. Unsatisfactory performance evaluations

  • Discipline problems now fit into overall evaluation process.

5. Suspension without pay

  • Intended to signal seriousness and get employee to think over commitment to changing/improving behavior.
  • May be used for very serious first offenses, such as:

    —Gross insubordination
    —Substance abuse on the job
    —Others (as outlined in your discipline policy)
  • Review company policy and procedure.

6. Termination

  • Result of moving through well-documented steps, or such extremely serious first offenses as:

    —Criminal acts, like theft, on the job
    —Possession of illegal drugs on the job
    —Violence on the job
    —Others (as outlined in your discipline policy)
  • Importance of HR guidance

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