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Employee Behavior: The Need to Discipline and Document

written by: Diane Lynn•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 11/11/2010

Employee discipline is a part of being an employer. When used properly, the discipline process can serve as a teaching tool for employees. Learn how to discipline and document employee behavior in a way that is beneficial to you as the employer and to the employee.

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    Learning How to Discipline & Document Employee Behavior

    FreeDigitalPhotos, businessman, by FDP Admin 

    You can start by making certain that employees understand not only the requirements of their jobs, but also the standards of the organization. When dealing with employees, part of your responsibility as an employer is to communicate acceptable performance and behavioral standards using an employee handbook, regular communications through newsletters, and supervisory training. However, even with perfect communication, there are times when employees violate company policy. Whether the behavior is unapproved absences, excessive lateness, poor job performance, inappropriate use of company property, or conflicts with other employees, teach your supervisors first how to recognize poor employee behavior and then how to discipline and document employee behavior.

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    Verbal Warning

    Unless the employee has committed an egregious offense, your first course of action is generally a verbal warning. For example, if a supervisor notices that an employee is consistently late for work, the supervisor should schedule a meeting with the employee and discuss the problem. During the meeting, the supervisor should ask for an explanation and verbally reiterate the expectations of the company. The supervisor should stress to the employee that the behavior must stop or a written, signed warning will be the next step in the progressive discipline sequence. After the meeting, the supervisor should start a written log and keep the log in the event that the situation does not resolve. This log serves as the beginning documentation for the employee disciplinary process.

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    Written Warning

    As part of a progressive discipline system, the written warning occurs either after a serious offense such as misuse of company property, inappropriate attitude toward co-workers or management, or a behavior that the employee has already received verbal counseling for. During the written warning phase of discipline, the supervisor should meet with the employee and discuss the incident. Prior to the meeting, the supervisor should document the employee behavior problem, detailing the infraction and the employer policy that was violated. The supervisor should also document that a warning is being issued and the consequences of further incidents. During the meeting, the supervisor must give the employee a copy of the warning, ask the employee to acknowledge receipt of the warning, and place the original copy of the document in the employee's file.

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    Termination Meeting

    If, after repeatedly attempting to warn and counsel an employee, you see no visible improvement in the employee's behavior, you may have no choice other than to terminate the employment of the problem employee. At this point in the employee discipline process, both the supervisor, upper management, and/or the legal department should be involved in the situation. Review the problem with the employee, remind the employee of the previous warnings, and inform the employee that her employment will be terminated. This is a very difficult decision and is the choice of last resort. Because of the potential for lawsuits, understanding how to discipline and document employee behavior from verbal warning to termination is vital.

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    Employment Law Information Network: Sample HR Policy at

    Employee Written Warning: Progressive Discipline Advice at

    Image Credit:, by FreeDigitalPhotos Admin