The Four Step Progressive Disciplinary Process

//The Four Step Progressive Disciplinary Process

The Four Step Progressive Disciplinary Process

Great Management Training Tips on How to Improve Employee Performance, from RPC, a Florida HR consulting firm that provides human resource seminars in Florida and throughout the U.S.

When HR provides consulting to managers on how to handle a performance issue with an employee, they should explain the organization’s progressive discipline process.  And, they should clarify the code of conduct or basic company policies regarding prohibited conduct.  If a company has not yet adopted a progressive discipline process, this tool will provide an overview of a typical Four-Step Progressive Discipline Process

Verbal Counseling

The first stage in a progressive (or constructive) discipline process is considered a “verbal”; however, it must be documented to support the conversation took place.

One of the most important aspects of a verbal counseling is to ensure the employee realizes that it is, indeed, the first in a multiple-step process that leads to termination.  Often, supervisors who tend to avoid confrontation, continue to just give “verbals” over and over again without progressing to the next step in the process.  When this happens, the employee’s point of view is that the supervisor is a “nice guy/gal” who will “cut me some slack.”  In other words, performance continues to suffer because the employee doesn’t view the verbal as official discipline, but rather just the boss “giving me a reminder.”

Depending upon the employee’s frame of reference, he/she may have been raised in a household in which it was common to have ten reminders before they were required to change behavior.  Also, the employee’s previous experiences with supervisors may dictate how they respond to a verbal.  As an example, a previous supervisor may have been able to tolerate frequent tardiness or did not have a strict safety policy to follow.

The key is that supervisors must be clear when talking with an employee and issuing a verbal warning, or any step in the disciplinary process.    However, the delivery of the message needs to be one that is assertive-not aggressive, treats the employee with respect, but also conveys the message that it is a level of discipline.

Here is an example of a Verbal:

“Fred, I needed to talk with you about an observation I’ve had this week.  I’ve noticed you working under X area without having your safety glasses on.   I’ve mentioned this to you one time before and you told me you’d forgotten them that day.”

“I’m giving you a Verbal warning this time, Fred, and it will be noted in your file.  It’s important you understand the seriousness of working without safety glasses so it doesn’t happen again.  I’m sure with just having this conversation about our safety policy that it won’t happen again, right? (Wait for an answer…)  Good, because I need to let you know if it does, it will unfortunately go to the next step which is a formal reprimand and that’s heading down the road to potentially losing your job.  II don’t want to see that happen to you.  More importantly, I don’t want you to lose an eye by not being safe here.  Okay?”

  • 1st Written Warning and Final Written Warning

When supervisors must move to the next step in the disciplinary process, a few issues must be asked before issuing a warning.

Have I given this employee all of the necessary guidance, direction, goals, training, tools and resources to be successful? If the answer is, “No”, then perhaps the level of discipline isn’t what is warranted.  It could be the supervisor hasn’t demonstrated good leadership behaviors and provided an environment for the employee to be successful.  An example may be a new employee whose skill level is not up to standard; yet the supervisor could only spare an on-the-job trainer for just one day.  In other words, the new employee was set up for failure.

However, if a supervisor can look him/herself in the mirror and say, “I’ve done everything I can for Fred, but he’s still not performing…”.  At that point, it is necessary for the next step in the process.

When an employee enters the next step in the process, sometimes the subsequent steps will take place rather quickly and the employee will be terminated within a relatively short period of time.  The root cause is that the employee may feel the boss “has it in for him” or that performance improvement is futile since the “boss is going to fire me anyway…”.  To avoid losing good employees who just need to be turned around, it is important for supervisors to practice something called the ©Lifeguard Approach.  The Lifeguard Approach means that the supervisor will do what he/she can to “save” the employee from drowning-or in other words from being terminated.

An employee who is on the receiving end of a warning document may get hostile, arrogant, use profanity, and even display negative behavior such as shoving a disciplinary document onto the floor.  Unfortunately, some employees just don’t handle feedback well and consider it, even though well-deserved, as some kind of personal attack.  Again, this goes back to the employee’s frame of reference.  If their previous experiences with supervisors have always been poor-they may assume the current discussion will be just as bad.  Therefore, they use “smoke screen” tactics such as disruptive behavior, crying, burst of emotions, etc. to try to thwart the disciplinary discussion and gain some level of control.

The hostile behavior, shoving papers onto the floor, etc. are all childish methods to gain control and the root cause for this type of behavior is fear and a lack of self-esteem and confidence.  An employee who blusters about a “write-up” and fails to acknowledge the changes that must be made to improve is usually the type of employee who will move to the next, and possibly final, step in the process.

  • Termination

Discussion question:  When is the appropriate time to terminate an employee?

Answer:  When it needs to be done-without procrastination such as letting the employee “work out the day…”

The reason for this answer is that in today’s environment workplace violence is on the rise.  More often than not, employees are struggling with their personal finances and dealing with challenging personal/domestic situations.  The process of losing employment can sometimes be that proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” and the termination meeting can become a dangerous place.

Prior to conducting a termination, the human resource department and senior leaders should be made aware of the date, time, and location.  Also, it may be necessary (depending on state law) to have an employee’s final paycheck prepared on the last day of employment.

The meeting should take place at the beginning of the employee’s work shift or work day.  Some may argue that it is more prudent to wait until the end of the day when fewer employees are in the area.   Keep in mind that 75% of communication happens non-verbally.  Therefore, an employee who is about to be terminated may recognize the signs of an impending termination-and it may invite violence into your workplace!

Once the termination meeting has been scheduled at the beginning of an employee’s shift, ensure that either security or local law enforcement are aware of the meeting.  Remember, preparation for something that may never happen is certainly better than not preparing for something that will likely happen…

By letting security or law enforcement know about a termination, adequate support can be called upon should the need arise.  Sometimes even the most mild-mannered employees can become aggressive, passive-aggressive, irrational-even hostile-during terminations.  Therefore, have the necessary support in the event an employee must be escorted from the facility/job site.

How long should a termination meeting be?

Answer:  2 minutes or less

Adhere to a strict no-trespass policy to keep terminated employees from returning to the facility/job site.  Also, do NOT let a terminated employees return to their work areas!  This is very disruptive to the business and is also dangerous.  Have a plan for doing an inventory of the employee’s personal items and getting the items back to him/her.  A good strategy is using a courier or overnight delivery service.

Lastly, ensure that all keys or access badges have been retrieved from terminated employees to prevent them from returning to your place of business.  If the employee has computer access, ensure the IT department is contacted so they may revoke passwords and restrict access to company files.

–Natalie Ivey, President & CEO
Results Performance Consulting, Inc.
RPC

Natalie Ivey is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and has more than twenty years of leadership and HR experience with Fortune 500 organizations. Her firm provides a wide array of human resources seminars in Florida and throughout the U.S. and also provides HR consulting and employee training, especially in dealing with problem employees.  www.rpchr.com

By |2017-06-16T17:17:55+00:00June 16th, 2017|Blog|Comments Off on The Four Step Progressive Disciplinary Process

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