BizMove Personnel Management

Positive Employee Discipline Procedures

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Employee Discipline Procedures


This article discusses positive employee discipline procedures. The word discipline carries with it many negative meanings. It is often used as a synonym for punishment. Yet discipline is also used to refer to the spirit that exists in a successful ball team where team members are willing to consider the needs of the team as more important than their own.

Positive discipline in a business is an atmosphere of mutual trust and common purpose in which all your employees understand the company rules as well as the objectives, and do everything possible to support them.

Any disciplinary program has, as its base, that all of your employees have a clear understanding of exactly what is expected of them. This is why a concise set of rules and standards must exist that is fair, clear, realistic and communicated. Once the standards and rules are known by all employees, discipline can be enforced equitably and fairly.

A good set of rules need not be more than one page, but prove essential to the success of a small business. A few guidelines for establishing a climate of positive discipline are given below:

  • There must be rules and standards, which are communicated clearly and administered fairly.
  • Rules and standards must be reasonable.
  • Rules should be communicated so they are known and understood by all employees. An employee manual can help with communicating rules.
  • While a rule or a standard is in force, employees are expected to adhere to it.
  • Even though rules exist, people should know that if a personal problem or a unique situation makes the rule exceptionally harsh, the rule may be modified or an exception be granted.
  • There should be no favorites and privileges should be granted only when they can also be granted to other employees in similar circumstances. This means that it must be possible to explain to other employees, who request a similar privilege with less justification, why the privilege cannot be extended to them in their particular situation.
  • Employees must be aware that they can and should voice dissatisfaction with any rules or standards they consider unreasonable as well as with working conditions they feel hazardous, discomforting or burdensome.
  • Employees should understand the consequences of breaking a rule without permission. Large companies have disciplinary procedures for minor violations which could apply equally well in small companies. They usually call for one or two friendly reminders. If the problem continues, there is a formal, verbal warning, then a written warning, and if the employee persists in violating rules, there would be a suspension and/or dismissal. In violations of more serious rules, fewer steps would be used. It is not easy to communicate this procedure since it should not be so firm that it can be expressed in writing. If it is made clear to employees who violate a rule at the first reminder, the procedure soon becomes understood by all.
  • There should be an appeals procedure when an employee feels you have made an unfair decision. At the very least, the employee should be aware that you are willing to reconsider your own decision at a later time.
  • Employees should be consulted when rules are set.
  • There should be recognition for good performance, reliability and loyalty. Negative comments, when they are necessary, will be accepted as helpful if employees also receive feedback when things go well.

No matter how good the atmosphere of positive discipline in your business, rules are bound to be broken, by some people, from time to time. In those situations, corrective action is sometimes necessary. In some rare cases, the violation may be so severe that serious penalties are necessary. If an employee is caught in the act of stealing or deliberately destroys company property, summary dismissal may be necessary. In all other severe cases, a corrective interview is needed to determine the reasons for the problem and to establish what penalty, if any, is appropriate. Such an interview should include all, or most, of the following steps:

  • Outlining the problem to the employee, including an explanation of the rule or procedure that was broken.
  • Allowing the employee to explain his or her side of the story. This step will often bring out problems which need to be resolved to avoid rule violations in the future.
  • Exploring with the employee what should be done to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
  • Reaching agreement with the employee on the corrective action that should be taken.

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