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  • Discipline is necessary when employee conduct adversely affects the efficiency or operation of the workplace or work environment.
  • The goal of discipline is to correct misconduct and improve behavior — not to punish the employee.
  • Disciplinary actions should be carefully considered and should align with the severity of the misconduct, past precedent, and the clearly stated workplace rules and guidelines provided to all employees.

Occasionally, situations arise where it is necessary to discipline an employee. This usually occurs when the employee’s conduct adversely affects the efficiency or operation of the workplace or the work environment. Conduct-related problems typically involve a failure to comply with written or unwritten rules of the workplace, such as coming to work on time, following orders, communicating with customers or coworkers, or using company equipment.

When an employee’s performance or conduct is not adequate, it is sometimes necessary to administer disciplinary action. Such action can be wide-ranging and may vary depending on the severity of the misconduct or the circumstances surrounding it.

The goal of discipline is to correct misconduct and modify unacceptable behavior. The goal is not to punish the employee. Discipline, if imposed, should strive to be progressive, beginning with the minimum discipline necessary to correct the offense. Of course, some misconduct may be serious enough to justify an immediate response involving a high level of discipline or even discharge. Regardless of severity, all penalties administered should be reasonably consistent with those imposed on other employees for similar offenses in similar circumstances.

Companies should clearly state work rules and guidelines along with specific disciplinary actions that will be taken for violations. Policies need to be provided to all employees. In fact, it is a good idea to have all employees read and sign a statement that they have read, understood, and will comply with all policies and procedures, and that they acknowledge the existence of consequences for any failure to comply.

Be mindful, however, that written policies should not be written in a way that limits flexibility or creates undue obligations for the company. For instance, if a progressive disciplinary path is defined, include a statement that the policy does not obligate the company to follow the steps in sequence. Although discipline should be consistently applied, employers may still need flexibility because each situation is unique and dynamic.