If you were asked why you use progressive discipline, how would you reply? A lot of managers would say you do it as a systematic way of documenting misconduct or poor performance, so you can eventually get rid of egregious offenders.

That’s not a bad answer, but it’s not a complete one, either.

Sometimes employees are just having temporary problems – a lapse in behavior, a poor series of decisions – that aren’t necessarily grave enough to warrant termination. In these cases, progressive discipline gives managers the tools to save the job of an endangered employee who is, on balance, worth keeping.

This kind of progressive discipline is called the “career advocate” model – because the manager is working with the employee to save his career with the organization, not against the employee to get rid of him.

The career advocate approach gives employers a chance to pull valuable people back from the brink. And if that can’t be done, it offers you a diplomatic way of persuading those who can’t be salvaged that they’ll actually be better off elsewhere.

The career advocate approach can be summed up in five steps:

  1. State the problem and lay out the consequences
  2. Frame the conversation in terms of the employee’s career
  3. Position yourself as the career advocate
  4. Find out why there’s misalignment between employee and company goals
  5. Try to re-establish alignment

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