How do you handle minor offenses where you don't want to fire an employee?

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

Progressive discipline makes it easier to fire an employee safely

This is a good time to discuss progressive discipline because there’s no mystery to it and everything so far regarding how to fire an employee falls under that heading, but some companies have specific policies. Progressive discipline is a system designed both to improve employee’s performance and create proper documentation if you ultimately have to fire an employee. It really begins with the realization that the employer is not the one who can change the employee’s conduct.

Before you fire an employee, they may change their conduct
Only the employee can change his or her own conduct. Clear guidelines and policies that have been well communicated and consistently applied are going to minimize a potential for wrongful employment termination claims against your company. The progressive discipline is really just a series of steps. It’s important to keep in mind that progressive discipline is not always appropriate.

In some cases, a serious infraction, such as illegal, unethical, or harmful conduct, you’ll want to fire an employee immediately. Immediate termination might be warranted, provided that in the past, you’d fire an employee under similar circumstances.

Establishing a policy can get you in trouble
You don’t want to get into trouble by establishing a policy. Don’t say that you will always give two written warnings, and then not follow it. Instead, say that you may take any of the following steps, but are not required to, and the circumstances will dictate how you handle any particular situation, etc. The reality is, even if your company doesn’t have a formal progressive discipline policy, you should follow the steps anyway.

When you are going through progressive discipline, the stages include the following and they get increasingly harsh over the course of the action. Start with an oral counseling, not a big deal, but you would, of course, document that as well. Even though you are counseling someone orally, you’d put a note to the file, just so that you’ve started the documentation process. If oral counseling doesn’t solve the problem, you go on to written counseling.

You might, depending on the circumstance, have a second written counseling, maybe a situation where if it happens again you suspend the person. And then if all else fails, you would fire the employee. So those are the stages. They should be flexible, but you should be following them so employees are always on notice about what the issues are that they’re not doing properly.

Benefits of progressive discipline
Some of the benefits of progressive discipline include allowing the employee to attempt to correct their problematic behavior. It provides a sense of fairness. If you’re giving people several chances, numerous chances to correct their behavior before you fire an employee, it’s very hard for someone to say it’s not fair. They say it all the time but it’s very hard for them to say it with a straight face. It also provides a written record of your disciplinary action so when you do go to fire an employee, it’s a lot easier, and everybody at the company is a lot more comfortable with the decision.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: How to Document Terminations So You Won’t Lose a Lawsuit by Alyssa Senzel given on June 7, 2006

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.