HR Issues for the Small Business: Disciplinary policies (Part 3)

Let’s face it, disciplining employees can be distasteful and this discomfort leads managers to follow the “let’s ignore the problem and see if it goes away” course of action. Not a good idea!  Every business should have a standardized written policy that covers performance standards and disciplinary steps. In addition to having these policies, managers must make sure that they have been communicated to every employee and that they are being followed.  The best approach is to discuss the organization’s disciplinary policies in the orientation of every new employee.  We encourage you to read our blog about orientation, an area that should not be overlooked.

Disciplinary policies sound negative to many managers, but their primary purpose should be to motivate and encourage your employees to perform at the acceptable standards you have set.  This often proves successful and the employment relationship is positive; however, sometimes a disciplinary plan must be established to deal with problem employees.  The plan, and associated policy, should include coaching and giving the employee time to improve, a clear expectation of what will happen if no improvements are made and a consistent commitment by management to follow through with these steps.  All employees should be held to the same performance standards and policies must be applied to all members of your team with consistency.  Inconsistency in a disciplinary process accounts for a large percentage of the claims lodged with the EEOC and can result in hefty damages if they result in a lawsuit.

In addition, consistent documentation protects the company from legal problems when your actions are challenged.   When an employee is coached verbally it is just as important to document the main points of the conversation in addition to the employee’s reaction.  It is crucial to avoid the complacent mindset that written warnings are the only documentation needed to substantiate the difficult decision of disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Attention to all aspects of the human resources sphere and solid HR policies that are consistently applied are keys to top performance as well as avoiding costly fines and morale problems in your company.

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