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Disciplining employees is a difficult part of supervision and management. It is important that you address performance issues as they arise and pursue a progressive approach to discipline.
In all instances where you believe that discipline may be appropriate, please contact the Office of Labor Relations or your HR Consultant for assistance.
Because employee discipline is a difficult experience that managers and supervisors sometimes face, these guidelines are intended to review the most effective approach to managing performance and/or behavioral issues. Behavioral issues generally result in disruption to the work environment; for example, workplace misconduct and/or rules violations, as well as performance issues, result in a failure to meet goals and/or properly perform tasks, such as when an individual lacks the knowledge, skills or ability to perform the job, or where the work is consistently unacceptable in terms of quality or productivity.
Discipline should not generally come as a surprise to the employee. Occasionally employees are unaware of their supervisors' dissatisfaction until they suddenly receive a formal written reprimand or a letter of termination. Try to avoid this situation if possible and attempt to regularly communicate issues to employees rather than wait until the performance problems can no longer be tolerated or until annual performance reviews are conducted.
In most cases, the purpose of discipline is to instruct and correct rather than to punish. It is your responsibility as a supervisor to explain to the employee those areas in which he or she is expected to improve, to make suggestions about how to improve, and to allow time for the employee to make improvements.
It is usually only in instances such as theft, physical violence or other serious misconduct that immediate termination may be the proper action. If you believe that you are confronted by such a case, please seek assistance from the Office of Labor Relations.
In most instances of behavioral problems, supervisors are encouraged to take a progressive approach to discipline. Please reach out to the Office of Labor Relations for assistance.
When it is apparent that a progressive disciplinary approach has failed and that the necessary change in behavior has not been achieved, you may decide to terminate* the employee.
Before terminating, however, you must give the employee written notification that you are scheduling him or her to attend a Pre-Termination Conference, and attach a draft copy of a letter specifying the reasons for termination. During the Pre-Termination Conference, give the employee an opportunity to respond to the reasons for termination, and consider what he or she says. After the meeting, you may investigate further if you so choose. Nonetheless, at the conclusion of the process, decide whether or not you will terminate or impose some lesser discipline. If you decide to terminate, simply finalize the initial draft letter and issue it to the employee.
The sequence outlined in steps 1, 2, and 3 above may not be appropriate in every circumstance. The appropriate number of discussions, letters, formal reprimands, and/or suspensions before termination, the repetition or exclusion of one or another of the steps, and the length of time between the steps taken may depend on many factors such as the length of service of the employee; the level, nature and responsibilities of the particular position concerned; the previous disciplinary record of the employee; the nature and seriousness of the problem; and any improvement made by the employee throughout this process.
Such a progressive disciplinary approach may not be necessary with performance-based problems (i.e., if an employee’s deficiencies in performing the functions of the position or meeting goals are such that they cannot be corrected by coaching, training or disciplinary action, such as when an employee lacks a particular skill, aptitude or ability). In these instances, acknowledge the employee’s lack of ability as soon as possible and provide consistent and regular performance assistance, evaluation, coaching and/or training. Then, after a reasonable period of time, if you conclude that the employee’s performance still has not reached and will not reach a satisfactory level, termination may be appropriate. Please note that this application of the disciplinary process is distinct from the Performance evaluation process. In all instances where you believe that discipline may be appropriate for a performance-based issue, please contact the Office of Labor Relations for further consultation.
Unionized employees may grieve discipline or termination in accordance with the applicable collective negotiations agreement, but that fact should not deter you as a supervisor from taking appropriate action when necessary.