By Dr Sri Kumar Sivakumaran
(President ASIA HOSPITALITY HUMAN RESOURCE ASSOCATION)
“Discipline is the process of using increasingly severe steps or measures when an employee fails to correct a problem after being given a reasonable opportunity to do so. The underlying principle of sound progressive discipline is to use the least severe action that you believe is necessary to correct the undesirable situation”
There are usually two reasons for disciplining employees: performance problems and misconduct.
Misconduct is generally the more serious problem as it is often deliberate, exhibited by acts of defiance. In contrast, poor performance is more often the result of lack of training, skills, or motivation. Performance problems can often be solved through coaching and performance management, while misconduct normally calls for progressive discipline. Sometimes extreme cases of misconduct are grounds for immediate termination.Managers often cite the following behaviour when identifying what they perceive to be poor worker performance or misconduct:
The steps of progressive discipline
Company policies on discipline should strive for fairness by adhering to these criteria:
After each step before termination, the employee should be given an opportunity to correct the problem or behaviour. If he or she fails to do so, the final step is taken: termination.
Step 1: Verbal counselling
Verbal counselling is usually the initial step. Verbal counselling sessions are used to bring a problem to the attention of the employee before it becomes so serious that it has to become part of a written warning and placed in the employee’s file.The purpose of the initial discussion is to alleviate misunderstandings and clarify the direction for necessary and successful correction. Most discipline problems can be solved at this stage if the matter is approached constructively and if the employee can be engaged in seeking solutions. This is usually effective because most people don’t want the disciplinary process to escalate.
Tips for the verbal counselling discussion:
Step 2: Written warning
If the problem is not resolved, you will need to prepare the written warning. Include in the warning information, responses, and commitments already made in the verbal counselling session.
The written warning has three parts:
A statement that the verbal discussion has occurred, which reviewed the employee’s history with respect to the problem. Be sure to include the date the verbal discussion took place.
A statement about the present, including a description of the current situation and including the employee’s explanation or response. Use the “who, what, when” model to be sure you include all necessary details.
A statement of the future, describing your expectations and the consequences of continued failure to correct the problem. This step may be repeated in the future with stronger consequence statements, so be clear on what the next step is.
By documenting these conversations, you cover yourself in legal disputes that may arise from terminations.
Here are some guidelines for documenting written warnings:
Step 3: Suspension without pay
Depending on the situation there are times when it is appropriate to suspend an employee and times when it is not. The rules on suspending employees without pay may depend on the specific situation, and, therefore, it is advised that employers review the Employment Law of the particular country (or other provincial employment standards legislation) before carrying out a suspension without pay.
Step 4: Termination
If a problem is not resolved after appropriate warning, you may have to terminate an employee. As well, there may be cases when you want to terminate an employee immediately before going through steps 1 to 3.After the probationary period, the employer must have just cause for termination or otherwise provide sufficient notice or severance. It is recommended that you consult with your provincial labour regulations to confirm what is deemed “just cause.” Poor work performance is not normally considered just cause unless the progressive discipline process has been followed and the employee has been given sufficient time to improve.
Just cause normally includes any of the following as grounds for immediate dismissal:
Appropriate level of discipline
It is important to determine the proper level of discipline in each situation. In other words, “the punishment must fit the crime.”First, consistency in discipline is important. How others have been treated for similar infractions should provide the primary basis for determining appropriate action, but there are several factors that may justify increasing or decreasing the level of discipline:
After considering all of these factors, there still may be times when you believe it is best for the business to terminate an employee, particularly if you determine that a particular person or situation is likely to be a chronic problem. Paying the required severance, or termination pay, is a small cost compared to the damage a problem employee can cause.
How to terminate an employee
If you are going to terminate an employee, you must have all the pertinent documentation in order and follow all the rules. If you do not, you risk legal repercussions for wrongful termination.Regardless of the specific rules for your jurisdiction, you should follow these general steps when terminating an employee: