Progressive discipline can be defined as a method used in the workplace environment to correct or improve employees’ work performance or their behavior-related issues at work by taking progressive steps such as informing, counseling, providing constructive feedback, and warning them about their short-comings.
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What is Progressive Discipline?
Progressive discipline is a way to get an employee’s attention or to communicate with him or her about their work-related issues and behavior. The progressive discipline approach is usually adopted by supervisors and management to communicate with employees when they fail to meet the workplace’s expected behavior standards.
The purpose of progressive discipline is not to discourage or punish employees. But the primary purpose of a progressive discipline approach is to help the employee understand their work-related problems and the opportunities to make improvements accordingly.
Progressive discipline takes place in different stages, each stage followed by the other if the desired performance is not achieved. The employee is provided formal feedback on his or her work and told about the expected outcomes.
The objective of progressive discipline is to make an employee aware of what improvements they should make if they want to keep their job. The progressive discipline process is considered successful if the expected outcome is obtained from the employee.
The progressive discipline is used on non-exempt employees or the employees who work for the organization on an hourly basis. As these employees are working on an hourly basis, the organization expects them to perform well so that companies’ resources don’t get wasted. The organization can make the most out of the resources spent by them.
The benefit of progressive discipline is that organizations can deal with employees’ undesired behavior at the workplace in a positive way. With the help of progressive discipline, either the employee’s unwanted behavior can be eliminated, or the employee can be terminated from the organization.
Importance of Progressive Discipline
Progressive discipline is a subtle way to communicate with employees who need to make improvements in their performance.
The following are the benefits of progressive discipline.
- Progressive discipline helps employees learn about the areas they lack in and helps them become productive and improve their performance.
- Progressive discipline makes the job of a manager easy. It helps them to identify problematic employees and take action accordingly.
- A progressive discipline approach is a great way to improve employee retention rates.
- The cost of employee replacement can be reduced with the help of the progressive discipline process.
- The communication between employees and employers becomes better.
- With the help of progressive discipline, employees are provided with various opportunities to work on their behavior at work before opting for strict disciplinary actions against them.
- Progressive discipline is a positive and polite way of making employees understand their shortcomings and discipline them.
When to Consider Progressive Discipline?
The progressive discipline approach is considered when there is a mismatch between employers’ expectations and the performance of an employee. Taking strict action like terminating an employee immediately rather than making progressive efforts to solve the issue is not right.
However, in some situations where immediate termination is necessary, like sexual harassment, whereas in other scenarios, the progressive discipline approach can be adopted to solve the issue. Therefore, knowing the problems where progressive discipline can be applied is useful.
The following are a few examples of issues that can be solved by using a progressive discipline approach.
- When an employee fails to meet job requirements.
- When an employee displays abusive or regressive behavior at the workplace.
- When an employee fails to meet deadlines or targets.
- When an employee doesn’t do his or her work efficiently.
- When an employee stays absent from work for a more extended period.
- When an employee doesn’t respect the office property or abuses it intentionally.
- When an employee doesn’t behave appropriately with other employees.
- When an employee steals from the office.
- When an employee displays inappropriate behavior at the workplace, such as throwing objects.
- An employee spends too much time on social media or sleeps on the desk during their working hours.
In the scenarios mentioned above, the issues can be resolved by taking a progressive discipline approach.
Steps of Progressive Discipline
The following are the steps of a progressive discipline process. However, not all the steps need to be followed every time. The method of progressive discipline ends when the desired results are obtained from the employees. In addition to this, it is up to a manager to use a combination of progressive discipline steps to deal with an issue.
Step 1: Verbal Counseling
The first and foremost step of progressive discipline is verbal counseling. Through verbal counseling, the department manager or supervisor notify the employee about their behavior or work performance. Verbal counseling is the first and most essential step of progressive discipline and effectively deals with small issues like being late at work or not submitting daily work reports.
Even though it is an essential step, only verbal communication occurs between the manager and the employee. It is critical that the meeting should take place in private. Sometimes, the employee might have a simple explanation, and discussing the issue in front of others will not be appropriate. In such a case, the manager should listen to the employee’s explanation and take proper actions to help the employee.
In addition to this, having written records is necessary before discussing it with the employees. Make sure that you had written documentation of all the events when the issue occurred. For example, written documentation of all the times an employee was late for work and the time duration for which he or she was late.
Step 2: Written Warning
The second step of progressive discipline is a written warning. A written notification is provided to the employee in most scenarios if the issue continues even after the verbal counseling. However, in some scenarios, a direct written warning is given to the employees. For example, if an employee misses the meeting with his or her manager without any communication.
The written warning should also contain all the necessary information regarding work-related issues or inappropriate behavior at the workplace. Keep written details such as time, date, and the number of times the incident took place.
The written warning should also contain the course of actions an employee should take after receiving the written notification. For example, either employee can revert to the manager in written form or meet the manager in person.
The written warning should also contain the expected behavior from the employee. The organization’s HR can help you prepare a written notification that can convey the message properly without offending the employee.
The manager should keep copies of written communication to refer to for future communications. The progressive discipline process can end if the desired outcome is obtained from the employee. Otherwise, the employee should be given a second written warning before applying for a Performance Improvement Plan.
Step 3: Performance Improvement Plan
The third step of progressive discipline is a performance improvement plan. The performance improvement plan is a written step-by-step plan to work on the behavioral or performance issue. The performance improvement plan is implemented only if the problem is not addressed after the verbal or written warning.
When the employee fails to meet the desired expectations, the manager should arrange a private meeting with them and share a written PIP plan with the employee. The manager should explain the details of the PIP plan and explain the whole process. The employee should be given prior warning about how the employee’s performance will be analyzed and reviewed.
The performance improvement plan can be implemented with the help of the HR manager of the organization. In case the employee fails to meet the expectation even after the performance improvement plan, the organization can go ahead with the employee’s termination.
Step 4: Termination of the Employee
The last and final step of progressive discipline is the termination of the employee from the job. This step is usually taken when all progressive discipline efforts don’t result in the expected outcome. Maintain a record of all the efforts made under the progressive discipline. These records can be presented to employees while terminating him or her from the job.
The termination process can be initiated by handing over the termination letter to the employee. You can take the help of an HR manager to deal with this process. Make sure to keep a copy of the termination letter with you for the record.
Guidelines that Managers or Supervisors should follow while following the Progressive Discipline
The progressive discipline process is initiated to make employees aware of their undesired or unprofessional behavior in the workplace. If proper guidelines are not followed while conducting the progressive discipline process, it can result in a few complications.
The guidelines are as following
- Don’t initiate the progressive discipline process based on half the information. Investigate the matter properly and collect all the required details on the issue. For example, if an employee is stealing from the office, you should involve the employees who have witnessed the incident or keep the experience’s visual recording.
- Documentation is necessary. It is essential to maintain a record of all the actions taken during the discipline process, the crucial documents about the incidents, and all the employee’s corrective steps.
- Implement the progressive discipline process as soon as you become aware of the incident.
- Be consistent and fair while implementing the discipline process. Starting an advanced discipline process and leaving it halfway through will not help you to eliminate the problem. Plan thoroughly before you initiate the process and involve essential people such as the department’s HR manager, head manager of the department, or the employees who witnessed the incident.
- Monitor the improvement in the behavior or performance of the employee. Sometimes, some employees make changes in their behavior when pointed out and later go back to their previous behavior. Therefore, make sure to monitor the performance of employees as well as after the progressive discipline process.
A progressive discipline process is an approach used by managers and supervisors to deal with employees’ unwanted behavior at the workplace.
Through the progressive discipline process, the employees understand the issues created by them at the workplace and corrective measures that they can take to improve their behavior.
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