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Tips for Handling Employee Disciplinary Procedures

written by: Tara Duggan•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 1/1/2011

Employee disciplinary procedures, such as giving verbal warnings, completing warning forms, and documenting poor behavior allow managers to keep track of issues with difficult employees. The author provides good tips for handling these plus an employee disciplinary form available for free download.

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    Manager and Employee 

    Creating and publishing policies and disciplinary procedures for employee disciplinary action ensure that everyone knows the rules. These documents may list offenses that automatically result in immediate suspension or even termination, including harassing others, behaving violently in the workplace, drinking or drug use during work hours, threatening or bullying co-workers, misrepresenting themselves, stealing, or violating safety regulations. Such dangerous violations warrant immediate action. For less serious problems, such as missed deadlines, managers may provide an informal verbal warning to guide employees followed by written reprimands. Company policy dictates how many chances an employee gets to respond to both verbal and written feedback to modify her behavior and on-the-job performance.

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    Issuing a Written Warning

    Using a template from a website such as the Microsoft Office Templates website or the free, downloadable form on Bright Hub's Human Resources Media Gallery, managers (according to their HR plan) list the employee’s name, date, and time of the incident and a description of the incident that violates company policies and procedures. If the incident represents a repeat offense, the manager may take more serious action in response than if the problem has occurred for the first time. Depending on the severity of the problem, the manager may decide to reduce the employee’s pay, reduce the employee’s working hours or even fire the person. Additional sections may list specific actions, such as workshops, seminars, or self-paced training material that the employee must complete before returning to work. Employees should have the opportunity to dispute the warning. Both the employee and manager should sign the form.

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    Responding to Substandard Behavior

    Minor breaches of the terms and conditions associated with employment, such as absenteeism, lateness, unacceptable attire, or personal hygiene may constitute the necessity of the manager developing warning procedures to address such issues. Managers should meet with the employee to come up with a strategy for addressing the offending behavior over a specified time frame.

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    Documenting the Communication

    To avoid making a difficult situation worse, managers must document all communication with the employee and express a genuine interest in making the employee successful. In the event that the decision is to terminate or layoff less productive employees, the documentation protects the company from legal action or other damage the employee might cause in retaliation for actions that may seem unfair.

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    Creating employee disciplinary procedures and carrying out necessary actions require planning and coordination. Establishing clear policies and procedures ensures that managers deal with all employees in a consistent manner. By starting with a verbal warning, giving written warnings and documenting all communication, managers help employees understand the rules of conduct. Additionally, a clear code of ethics ensures a safe and productive workplace for everyone and enables company and employee success.

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    References and Image Credit

    • Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Everaldo Coelho
    • "Employee Warning Form And Discipline Procedure." Employee Warning Form And Discipline Procedure. (accessed December 21, 2010).
    • "HRN Management Group: Performance, Compensation, and HR Adminstration Tools." HRN Management Group: Performance, Compensation, and HR Adminstration Tools. (accessed December 21, 2010).
    • Industry. " Templates - Microsoft Office." Office - Microsoft Office. (accessed December 21, 2010).
    • "SHRM Online - Society for Human Resource Management." SHRM Online - Society for Human Resource Management. (accessed December 21, 2010).

Managing Employee Disciplinary Procedures

Although most consider it a dread task, it's important to manage employee disciplinary issues and to document any actions taken. Learn how to do this more effectively with this series of articles.
  1. Disciplinary Actions for Employee Behavior: What Are Your Options?
  2. Tips for Handling Employee Disciplinary Procedures
  3. Sample Forms for Disciplinary Action
  4. Documenting Disciplinary Actions: Sample Employee Letters
  5. Tips for Keeping a Record of Employee Disciplinary Acts