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The Dos And Don’ts Of Employee Discipline

You have an under-performing or problem employee who doesn’t seem to “get it.” You’ve told him over and over again but he keeps doing what you told him not to do and you don’t understand what the problem is and why he can’t just do his job right in the first place. Does this scenario sound familiar?

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By Deanna Arnold 

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You have an under-performing or problem employee who doesn’t seem to "get it." You’ve told him over and over again but he keeps doing what you told him not to do and you don’t understand what the problem is and why he can’t just do his job right in the first place. Does this scenario sound familiar?
It happens all too often. An employee isn’t performing to par and there
continues to be problems with the employee, but the manager doesn’t
address it. Instead, the manager hopes the problem will go away or they
assume that the person knows what they are doing wrong and will correct
the situation. Then, they are so fed up with the employee that they
decide one day that they just want the employee gone. The manager lets
the employee go, the employee files for unemployment and gets awarded
the benefit because the employer doesn’t have any documentation to prove
that the person should have been fired. It doesn’t have to be like
that. There is a better way.
Here are the dos and don’ts of employee discipline to help ease the long-term pain:
 
1. Do nip problems in the bud and as they happen. Feedback (of any kind)
and consequences have more of an impact when immediate and in the
moment, but in private. Think of it another way — if you stick your hand
on a hot stove, the immediate feedback and consequences are felt with
the burn and you know not to do that again.
2. Don’t wait to talk to an employee and address the issue. Whatever
discussion you have with them is for nothing because there is a complete
disconnect between the action and the feedback at that point. 
3. Do be specific as to what the employee did wrong. Explain to them why
it was wrong, what they need to fix going forward and the consequences
should they not change their behaviors.
4. Don’t assume they know the problem. When people aren’t told the
expectations, they will do what they think should be done, which may not
be in line with what you want done for your business.
5. Do document verbal discussions and then proceed to written warnings,
should the unwanted behaviors continue. This is called progressive
discipline. Putting things in writing signifies permanency and when
things are written, there is more of an impact on the employee. It’s
usually not until it is in written form does it get the attention of the
employee.
6. Don’t keep having multiple conversations with the employee without
documenting them or proceeding to the next step in progressive
discipline. Be sure to document that they understand and acknowledge
what you’ve told them, whether it is having them respond through email
or signing a disciplinary or coaching form. Unless it is documented, it
essentially doesn’t exist for the purposes of ongoing discipline,
unemployment or a lawsuit (worst case scenario).
7. Do keep your word and stick to upholding the consequences should the
employee’s behavior not improve. If there were no consequences, why
would someone change their behavior? People will do what you allow them
to do. 
8. Don’t give them empty threats and think it will just go away over
time. If anything, things will get worse. Disciplining and coaching
employees is not something most people like to do, but I can guarantee
that issues not resolved as they happen with an employee will cause
bigger issues in the end.
9. Do be consistent in how you discipline different employees for
similar offenses. Having a verbal conversation with one employee and
firing another employee for similar or the same issues can open you up
to liability and potential discrimination claims. 
10. Don’t use personal attacks or anything that may be considered
discriminatory when disciplining employees. Keep the focus on the issues
that are job related. 
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Having a problem employee that goes undisciplined has a much bigger
impact on a small business than just an employee not pulling their
weight or doing something wrong. A problem employee impacts other
employees as well, which impacts business operations as a whole and
ultimately the bottom line. Additionally, when other employees see that
the manager or business owner isn’t addressing the issue of a problem
employee, they lose respect for that manager or owner and will start
doing what they want to do because they know there won’t be any
consequences. It is difficult for people to stay motivated to do good
work for someone they don’t respect.
Don’t drag it out and make it harder on everyone involved. I promise it will be better in the end.
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Deanna Arnold, PHR, is the president and owner of Cornelius,
N.C.-based Employers Advantage LLC, which provides practical and sound
solutions to meet the needs of your business in all aspects of human
resources, including but not limited to, recruiting, benefits, employee
relations, compliance, performance management, HRIS, workers
compensation, safety, facilities/office management, and budgeting. She
can be reached by emailing [email protected] or calling 980-422-7953. www.employersadvantagellc.com

Article courtesy of TIRE REVIEW.

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