Employee Discipline Best Practices For Small Businesses

Two managers discussing employee discipline looking at a laptop

No manager likes to deal with employee discipline, but it is an essential part of the job. When the need arises for this type of action, it’s best to be prepared with a procedure rather than reacting with emotion.

In this article, the management experts at Sling give you 12 tips for disciplining your employees in a way that benefits them and your business.

Employee Discipline Best Practices

Coworkers sitting around a table, looking at computer monitor

1) Review The Law In Your Area

There are federal, state, and local laws that apply to employee discipline, but, by and large, how you discipline is up to you. You can determine how you discipline and for what infractions, but it’s still vital to check the laws in your area before doing so.

A quick and easy way to do this is to consult with a lawyer who is familiar with your business and the laws in your city and state.

2) Check Your Employee Handbook

If you have a comprehensive employee handbook, you’ll probably have a section on employee discipline. Be sure to review that information before meeting with the individual. When you do, be sure to adhere to the procedures you’ve already written.

When you discipline “by the book,” your employees can’t come back and use the discipline against your business because the repercussions of bad behavior were written down in black and white for everyone to see.

3) Gather All The Facts

When it comes to employee discipline, avoid relying solely on one person’s perspective.

It’s essential to gather all the facts and investigate all sides of the problem in question. That may mean interviewing other employees — and possibly even customers — to get to the bottom of what happened.

Sometimes, you may discover that an issue that started out needing employee discipline really doesn’t.

4) Document Everything

Manager writing down everything related to an employee discipline

Whether employee discipline is administered or not, you should always document all the facts in the case. Key information to record includes:

  • Interviews with bystanders
  • An interview with the offending employee
  • An interview with the person who was on the other side of the wrong
  • Your conclusions
  • Any discipline given out
  • Dates and times of everything

With those facts on hand, you will be set for any employee reviews that come after the issue.

5) Establish Clear And Consistent Rules For Employees

Clear and consistent rules are paramount when dealing with employee discipline. List information such as dress code, permitted behaviors, prohibited behaviors, work ethic, and mobile device usage (just to name a few) in your employee handbook for all to read.

If an employee discipline incident should occur, be sure to follow the rules you’ve put down in writing.

6) Establish Clear And Consistent Rules For Managers

Hand of a manager holding a pen to sign employee discipline form

Sometimes when employee discipline becomes necessary, it’s all too easy for managers to rely on emotion and their own view of things. But that isn’t always in everyone’s best interest.

That’s why it’s crucial to also establish clear and consistent rules for managers. Consider writing down step-by-step instructions for administering employee discipline so managers don’t over- or under-react.

7) Don’t Delay

Address misconduct as soon as possible. Putting it off for whatever reason sends the message to your employees that this type of behavior is tolerated.

While you may not levy employee discipline in the exact moment, you should certainly speak to all employees and let them know that what happened was wrong and that there will be repercussions.

8) Determine The Discipline Method

Not all employee discipline is the same. You may penalize an employee a day’s wages, suspend them for a time, or reassign them to a different job.

You could also try setting up a performance-improvement plan or requiring that they take some type of on-the-job training. Whatever method you choose, make sure the employee discipline is commensurate with the misconduct.

9) Meet With The Employee In Private

Computer, coffee cup, and plant on a white desk

Whenever you choose to administer the employee discipline, be sure to hold a private meeting with that person. In fact, it’s important to meet with an employee in private anytime you want to discuss performance (be it positive or negative).

When you do meet with the employee, be sure you include a witness — a supervisor, someone from HR — who can corroborate what is said and done.

10) Incorporate Progressive Employee Discipline

Progressive employee discipline is the process of administering more and more severe penalties for continued misconduct. Typical progressive discipline follows these four stages:

  1. Verbal warning
  2. Written warning
  3. Suspension
  4. Termination

You can include other stages in your progressive discipline, but be sure to outline them all clearly in your employee handbook.

11) Use Employee Reviews To Avoid Problems

Periodic performance reviews are an effective way to avoid employee discipline problems before they begin. Be sure to address both good and bad behaviors you have noted so that the employee can build on the good and reduce the bad.

Schedule these meetings every three months to keep your employees focused, engaged, and happy in their work.

12) Don’t Ignore Poor Behavior To Increase Productivity

Two men on computers working at the same table

Too often, it’s easy to overlook misconduct and poor behavior because an employee has a high level of productivity. When that happens, problems fester and grow out of control until the only option it drastic action, like immediate termination.

Don’t ignore bad behavior just to increase productivity or you may find that productivity dropping significantly when you have to let someone go.

Improve Work Performance With Effective Scheduling

One way to avoid employee discipline before it becomes a necessity is to improve work performance with effective scheduling. And the best way to schedule your team quickly and efficiently is with the Sling suite of tools.

Sling's scheduling feature that can help avoid employee discipline

Sling makes it possible to schedule even the most complicated shifts, like:

With advanced features like the built-in time clock, labor cost optimization tools, reports, newsfeed, messaging, and task list, you have everything you need to make your job — and your employees’ jobs — easier and more enjoyable.

Sling's labor cost feature

And when your team is happy, the need for employee discipline decreases significantly.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

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