How does progressive discipline help me fire an employee

by on May 28, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

It creates the proper documentation to fire an employee

Progressive discipline is a system designed to both improve employee performance and to create proper documentation in case you have to fire an employee. And it begins with the realization that the company can’t change the employee’s conduct. Only the employee can. This is why you should have clear guidelines and policies that are well communicated to employees and consistently applied; that way, you reduce the number of legal claims against your company.

A series of steps
A progressive discipline policy is really a series of steps. And it’s also important to realize that progressive discipline is not always appropriate. If you have a serious infraction such as illegal conduct, unethical conduct, harmful conduct, that kind of thing may require you to fire an employee immediately.

Progressive discipline, like everything else, requires consistency. Think about whether this has happened in the past, and if other people who have committed the same violation were immediately terminated. If not, you need to consider why this is different. So, you want to think about whether it is appropriate to fire an employee in a given situation.

Keep the policy flexible
It’s helpful to keep your progressive discipline policy very flexible. What you want to try to avoid is getting into a situation where you establish a firm policy. For example, you shouldn’t say that you will always give two written warnings before going on to the next step, and then turn around and break that shortly thereafter.

Instead, try to say that you may take any of the following steps. But you’re not required to and we can take any action that we see appropriate, depending on the circumstances.

You don’t even have to have a formal policy. Even if you don’t, you should follow progressive discipline steps anyway when terminating an employee. You’re never going to fire an employee for minor first offense for example. And again, being consistent is key.

The stages generally include things like oral counseling, written counseling, second written counseling, suspension or some call it a decision day, where the person takes time to think about whether they’re going to change their ways not and then ultimately, you fire that employee.

The benefit of a progressive discipline policy is it does allow an employee to instantly correct their problem behavior. It provides the sense of fairness; it shows that you’re always trying to show that your policies are fair. Plus, it ensures that the actions you’re taking makes sense. And you’ll have a record because this is all going to be in writing. So that when you do want to fire an employee, you’ve got a policy in place you can refer to and documentation to back it up.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: Effective Termination Techniques-How to Document Terminations (So You Don’t Lose a Lawsuit) by Alyssa Senzel from June 6, 2007>

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