Poor Communication Can Create Employee Discipline Problems

February 23, 2011 by  

By:  Audra Becker, Director- HR Consulting

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During my years in the HR field, the majority of discipline problems that I have encountered are because of poor communication. Organizations communicate to their employees through their on-boarding process which can include-employee handbooks, safety manuals, labor contracts, or standard operating procedures. When an organization develops and implements company policy and procedures it is imperative to consider the comprehension levels of the employees. An organization can have the best intentions to communicate policy and procedures however if your employees do not understand the policies then essentially you are setting your employees up for failure.

On occasion, even with proper communication and training, discipline maybe necessary. When an employee commits a violation, progressive discipline should be used with consistency and follow company procedure. Progressive discipline should be a documented process for addressing unsatisfactory behavior or performance. The goal of progressive discipline is to offer an employee the opportunity to improve a behavior unless the violation warrants dismissal.

The goal of progressive discipline is to document and correct unacceptable behavior, poor performance, or other work-related issues. Whether the discipline is for attendance violations, job performance, or poor judgment, the employee should be made aware that they have violated a known policy or practice.

All disciplinary meetings with the employee should be held in a confidential private area and with a witness present. A poor business practice and a common mistake made in a discipline meeting is that communication is a one-sided conversation without allowing the employee to respond.

If the problem is performance related, the supervisor and employee should agree on a plan of action for improving the employee’s performance. This plan should include measurable goals, a timeline for improvement, and a scheduled date to review the status of the performance.

If the problem is a behavioral issue or a rule violation, the employee should understand what behavior is unacceptable. Together, the supervisor and employee should agree on a plan of action to improve the employee’s behavior.

The following steps should be used for most behavioral issues, rule violations, or poor work performance.

• Step 1 – Verbal Warning
• Step 2 – Written Warning
• Step 3 – Final Written Warning/Suspension
• Step 4 – Dismissal

In my next blog I will discuss the process of conducting a formal discipline meeting and the necessary documentation that should take place prior to the meeting.
Audra Becker, Director- HR Consulting of Career Management Associates an HR consulting firm that specializes in Professional and Executive Search, HR Consulting and Services, Outplacement and Career Transition, Executive Coaching, and Contract Employment. Please contact me at abecker@cmacareer.com or 207-780-1125

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