PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE: 7 Steps Of Progressive Discipline

progressive discipline
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Employers utilize progressive punishment as a method to change employee behavior when they violate numerous rules, standards, and codes of conduct. By providing a thorough and succinct record of subpar performance, it attempts to correct problematic behavior. It also enables and supports an organization’s position and choice to suspend, and possibly dismiss, an employee. We will get to understand what progressive discipline policy is all about, the benefits, and the steps with an example. Sit and have a nice read

Progressive Discipline Policy

This progressive discipline policy outlines the procedure for dealing with both one-time and reoccurring instances of employee noncompliance with policies and/or specific workplace conduct requirements. According to the specifics, type, and amount of the necessary correction. Either this policy or the Performance Accountability & Commitment Policy may be used to address corrections for inappropriate behavior. Depending on the case, either policy may address workplace expectations, such as those outlined in the Credo.

A step-by-step procedure called “progressive discipline” is intended to change inappropriate employee behaviors. Depending on the gravity and circumstances of the problem, discipline may also begin at a higher step. According to the policy of the company’s progressive discipline.

A progressive discipline procedure steps are influenced by three main factors:

  • Type of problem: The order of punishment may be influenced by the circumstances surrounding the error. Minor mistakes might cause the discipline to move slowly, whilst significant mistakes can cause it to escalate more quickly.
  • Industry: Every workplace might have a distinct understanding of the seriousness of an error, which will alter how penalties are applied. For a social media manager, it can be more serious than it is for a cashier to type words improperly.
  • Supervisor: Supervisors have different preferences about how to discipline team members. One duty may receive significant focus from one leader while receiving less emphasis from another.

Examples of Actions and Behaviors That Fall Under the Progressive Discipline Policy Coverage

The list of personnel issues that could result in progressive discipline is not all-inclusive. Some of the following violations may result in an employee’s instant termination, and it depends on the type and seriousness of the violation.

  • Violations of the norms, rules, and procedures controlling student, patient, or employee safety or compliance
  • Misuse of Vanderbilt facilities, financial resources, or electronic resources
  • Inappropriate and disrespectful conduct, including using foul language, insults, or solicit
  • Attendance and absence.
  • Failure to meet job criteria
  • Not being able to meet deadlines
  • The poor quality of the work.
  • Doing insufficient work
  • Intentional mistreatment of firm assets
  • Insubordination
  • Stealing
  • Throwing things
  • Working while being sleeping

What Is Progressive Discipline?

Managers and supervisors frequently utilize progressive punishment to give notice to workers who are not fulfilling expected or communicated job performance standards, are not acting correctly at work, or are not abiding by RF policies and procedures. It is also described as a procedure that makes an effort to address and fix a worker’s subpar work performance in the workplace. By giving them clear, constructive criticism in the course of a sequence of progressively formal procedures.

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), its successful completion, and/or termination of employment are often included in the process. This is along with one or more spoken counseling sessions and written warnings. The goal of progressive discipline is to assist staff members in resolving their problems and improving their success and productivity. Progressive discipline safeguards the legal rights of the employee and employer while giving managers and supervisors a fair and consistent approach to managing disciplinary matters. If any discipline is necessary, managers and supervisors should speak with the campus HR office and collaborate with them on this decision.

The instructions in this paper are meant to help managers and supervisors understand the progressive discipline procedure and also put it into practice in compliance with any applicable equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws.

The Purpose of Progressive Discipline

The goal of progressive discipline is to help employees by being upfront and honest about issues and what will happen if the same mistakes or misdeeds occur again. It’s crucial that punishment is administered in a fair and consistent manner. The supervisor has a crucial duty to perform a fair and impartial investigation of a situation. An investigation could be as straightforward as using a time clock to confirm a late arrival. Or it could be more involved, involving document analysis and multiple employee interviews.

The Human Resources Consultant should be consulted for more complicated inquiries (and other institutional offices, as needed). The manager needs to look through any pertinent paperwork, consider how the employee was informed of the broken expectation, consult with any witnesses (and get written statements, if necessary), and talk to the employee about the incident. Asking the employee if there are any mitigating or extenuating circumstances should be part of the conversation.

Steps of Progressive Discipline

The following steps include in the progressive discipline policy.

Step 1: Verbal warning and counseling

In the steps of progressive discipline, the first step offers the immediate supervisor the chance to draw attention to the current performance, behavior, or attendance concern. The employee should be informed of the nature of the issue or the breach of corporate policies and procedures by the supervisor. The manager must clearly lay out expectations and the actions the employee must take to raise his or her level of performance or fix a problem.

The supervisor will create written evidence of the verbal counseling within five business days. The employee will be required to sign this form to attest to his or her understanding of the problems and the recommended solutions.

Step 2. Writing a Warning

A written warning is the second part of the steps of progressive discipline. It shows the formal documenting of the performance, conduct, or attendance concerns and their effects.

The employee will meet with the direct supervisor, a division manager, or a director during this second step. To discuss any new occurrences or details on the performance, conduct, or attendance concerns, as well as any previous pertinent corrective action plans. The implications for the employee of his or her continuous inability to achieve performance or conduct expectations will be described by the management.

A formal performance improvement plan (PIP) will be issued within five business days of the warning meeting, compelling the employee to take urgent and persistent corrective action. According to the written warning, if timely and sustained corrective action is not taken, the employee may be subject to further discipline, up to and including termination.

Step 3: Suspension and the Last Written Warning

The most beneficial course of action in some safety, behavior, or performance-related situations may be to temporarily remove the employee from the job. The immediate supervisor may suspend the employee pending the outcome of an investigation, which is needed when necessary measures are needed to ensure the safety of the employee or others.

Suspensions are suggested as a regular course of action under the progressive discipline policy. Also, it is a procedure that requires the consent of a manager at the next level and HR.

In accordance with federal, state, and municipal wage and hour employment rules, the employee may be suspended without pay in full-day increments depending on the nature of the offense. Non-exempt/hourly workers are not permitted to replace the unpaid suspension with any accrued paid vacation or sick day. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), major workplace safety or conduct issues only qualify salaried or exempt employees for an unpaid suspension. To ensure that the discipline is applied without putting the FLSA exemption status at risk, HR will offer recommendations.

If an investigation into the incident or violation clears the employee of wrongdoing, pay may be reinstated for the employee.

Step 4: Possible Next Courses of Action

One or more of the following steps may be necessary, depending on the offense’s nature or frequency in dealing with a progressive discipline of a worker.

  • Transfer. Employers may decide to consider a transfer as an alternative to termination or other harsh punishment.
  • Refrain from paying out raises. An employee who has a history of bad behavior might not get a pay raise.
  • Demotion. It might be reasonable to demote a worker, perhaps to a position where they will perform better.

Step 5: Suspension

Suspension without pay is one of the steps that could be taken in progressive discipline. Depending on the severity of the infraction, the suspension could last anywhere from a few days or longer.

Step 6: Termination

The employee’s supervisor should confer with one or more upper-level supervisors before making the decision to fire an employee. A single person should never make the choice. It’s crucial to be consistent. If one employee is fired for an offense while another is only temporarily suspended for the same offense, the company exposes itself to a number of legal challenges.

Broad Recommendations for Managers and Supervisors Using Progressive Discipline

The following general principle steps may be taken into account by managers or supervisors while adopting progressive discipline:

  • Investigate the situation as necessary. Before applying any progressive discipline step, fully investigate all issues that call for an investigation. Interviewing other workers or witnesses who may have knowledge of a problem or incident may be part of this.
  • Create a written record. Include pertinent details regarding the occurrence, the dates on which incidents or issues occurred, and any necessary remedial action that needs to be taken by the employee when documenting each step of progressive discipline. Any actions that the manager or supervisor should take should also be included.
  • Be fair and dependable. Be fair and consistent when choosing the right level of punishment for the issue(s); for instance, use the same progressive discipline step(s) for the same infraction. When deciding on the appropriate level of discipline, if any, consult with the campus HR office.
  • Implement the punishment right away. Implement any appropriate progressive discipline as soon as a problem is identified or an incident takes place.
  • Keep an eye out for progress. Once progressive discipline has been put in place, it is important to keep an eye on how the employee is performing and/or acting.
  • Keeping records. In compliance with the Policy on Confidential Research Foundation Information, any paperwork pertaining to progressive discipline that has been used shall be stored in a secured file.

Let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of progressive discipline.

Benefits of Progressive Discipline

Progressive discipline is no different from other workplace policies in that it has benefits and drawbacks. Let’s examine some of the greatest benefits and drawbacks of a progressive discipline.

Benefits of Progressive Discipline

Below are the benefits/advantages of a progressive discipline:

  • It clearly outlines the repercussions of breaking the employer’s regulations or not performing up to expectations.
  • It offers the chance for uniformity and impartiality in the disciplinary actions taken against various employees.
  • An employee is given the chance to alter their conduct. This is especially true when an employee didn’t realize they were breaking the rules.
  • Other benefits of progressive discipline include the provision of an opportunity for coaching and mentoring since it allows the employer to discuss with the employee what steps can be taken to make things better.
  • It offers the employer a substitute for disciplinary action for breaches of a more mild nature. This increases worker retention.
  • Moreover, knowing that their employer won’t terminate them for a minor infraction also helps to boost employee morale. The assurance that inappropriate behavior by others will be addressed can also boost morale.
  • It demonstrates that the employer offered the worker every chance to develop.

Disadvantages of Progressive Discipline

We have seen the benefits of a progressive discipline, now let us see the disadvantages:

  • Such a policy may appear rigid; HR and managers must exercise discretion when straying from the planned progression (as may be necessary when considering all circumstances).
  • This can seem discriminatory if it is not applied uniformly to all employees. (Note: Employers who use progressive discipline are not the only ones who face this issue; it occurs whenever various disciplinary penalties are applied to different employees who have committed the same offense.) The likelihood of litigation if this happens is the main worry in this situation.
  • Some worry that such a policy could have the effect of an implied contract stipulating that an employee will never be terminated without following the procedures, as it indicates that the actions must be taken before any termination. There is a concern that this could put the work relationship’s “at-will” status in danger.
  • It can take a lot of time to put into practice, particularly for businesses with few resources. The process itself takes time, but it also necessitates pre-process training, documenting each incident, and follow-up.
  • Following these procedures and keeping an individual at work who breaks any rules may not be practicable for certain businesses, especially small businesses. Or the company could be unable to continue operating with a suspended employee. It just might not be doable for every organization to execute.

How to Implement a System of Progressive Discipline

One of the ultimate benefits of progressive discipline is that it assists staff in the early correction of conduct issues and early resolution of performance concerns. Using a system of progressive punishment:

  • It provides a method for discipline that is fair, consistent, and objective.
  • It also encourages open communication between a manager and their staff.
  • Increases worker productivity.
  • Resolving problems may increase employee retention.
  • Gives crucial paperwork in case termination is required.
  • Talk to a well-known employment law attorney if you have or are thinking about a progressive disciplinary system.

Progressive Discipline Example

Several instances of progressive discipline are provided below, the first example is showing a situation where an employee must deal with several consequences concerning, while the second is showing how gradual discipline can benefit the worker in progressive discipline.

Progressive Discipline Example 1

Here’s an example of a situation where an employee must deal with several consequences concerning progressive discipline:

Kay works as a hospital’s information technology specialist. His main duty is to maintain the computers that the medical staff uses to store and update patient records, schedule appointments with doctors, and schedule appointments. One day, Kay shows up for work one and a half hours after his shift is supposed to start. Kay was verbally warned by the hospital’s general manager to be on time or else face more reprimands. Kay asserted that he was aware of the requirements.

The following week, Kay shows up for work at noon rather than his scheduled time. This time, a written warning outlining the first and second offenses was sent to him by email from his supervisor. According to the report, Kay’s tardiness prevents him from attending to computer repairs, which has an impact on how quickly patients are handled in the emergency room. Kay is a half-day behind schedule and is now three times late for his shift. At the meeting, Kay was informed by the manager that he was no longer an employee at the hospital and was called in for a meeting with a human resources mediator.

Progressive Discipline Example 2

The following example demonstrates how gradual discipline can benefit the worker:

Mary works as the nonprofit organization’s marketing coordinator. She is in charge of taking pictures of neighborhood activities and uploading them on social media. The organization sends hot meals to people’s homes in time for a holiday. She fails to snap any images of the event for social media posting, which lessens the impact of the nonprofit’s mission.

The marketing manager warns Mary verbally about her error and also explains that by recording occurrences, the group is better equipped to recruit volunteers and funds. Mary claims that in order to help employees serve food, she was given instructions by another manager, which kept her from taking pictures. The marketing director comprehends why the first ideas didn’t work, and Mary learns to prioritize her chores.

As with the example above, there are reasons and solutions for ineffective and poor progressive discipline, and we will be looking through them. 

Why Progressive Discipline is Ineffective and Outdated

For example, employers who threaten employees with progressive discipline foster a dread of decision-making among staff members, which could inhibit advancement. Employee errors are frequently the result of a fault in a policy or practice. All too frequently, companies fail to establish a “fair culture,” and instead of acknowledging that an employee’s actions or mistakes led to the policy or process, they blame the employee and impose punishment.

While there are circumstances in which progressive discipline is appropriate (for example, persistent tardiness, chronic absenteeism, blatant policy violations, etc.), the employer must consider the “whole picture” and assess each situation individually.

The possibility for managers and other leaders to unfairly and biasedly use progressive discipline to expedite the termination of an employee is a crucial drawback. Perhaps an employee participates in protected conduct, such as whistleblowing, is outspoken about opinions that challenge the status quo, or organizes a union, to mention a few.

Additionally, a “strike” or “incident” may be removed from an employee’s record, for example, after a specific period of time in many progressive discipline programs. Changing employee behavior in this way is unsuccessful and detrimental.

On days when they might be absent, it might be possible to find a solution that lets the employee work from home. Offering options and solutions enables the employee to continue working productively, demonstrates to the employee that their employer values the work they do, and prevents the employee from having a tarnished record and fear of repercussions from the disciplinary process. However, this will not always be conceivable.

What is the Remedy for Progressive Discipline?

There are numerous alternatives to progressive discipline that yield better results, even though there are some behaviors that call for severe and harsh treatment, which must be handled individually.

Employers must provide managers latitude in how they discipline staff. Perhaps it is appropriate to treat an employee differently than an employee with a pristine ten-year record who commits a single error if they have a ten-year history of subpar performance and policy infractions.

Additionally, management is given far too much latitude when it comes to applying progressive discipline, which is another issue. Without following the progressive procedure, managers might intensify progressive discipline and make an argument for termination.

Performance coaching, a technique for behavior adjustment, is a remedy for the progressive discipline issue. Employers should meet with the employee and have a formal discussion about why the behavior occurred or the policy was violated rather than impose a degree of progressive discipline right away when an employee’s behavior is unjustified or a policy or procedure is broken.

Employees that are disciplined may actually find ways to get around rules or procedures in the future and avoid breaking them. This type of personnel is challenging to manage because they rapidly pick up on the “ins and outs” of avoiding punishment and accomplishing “just enough” to get the job done without drawing attention to themselves.

What Is Progressive Discipline Why Is It Important?

Progressive discipline is a procedure or approach that makes an effort to address and fix a worker’s subpar work performance or unprofessional behavior in the workplace by giving them clear, constructive criticism in the course of a sequence of progressively formal procedures.

What Are the Principles of Progressive Discipline?

The following steps include progressive discipline principles:

  • Verbal warning and counseling
  • Writing a warning
  • Suspension and the last written warning.
  • Possible Next Courses of Action
  • Suspension.
  • Termination.

How Do You Implement Progressive Discipline?

Using a system of progressive punishment:

  • Provides a method for discipline that is fair, consistent, and objective.
  • Encourages open communication between a manager and their staff.
  • Increases worker productivity.
  • Resolving problems may increase employee retention, etc.

How Do You Teach Progressive Discipline?

Progressive Discipline Chart

  • Understand why the undesirable behavior is unacceptable and the damage it has created.
  • Recognize what they could have done differently in the same circumstance.
  • Recognize the effect their actions have on others.
  • Accept culpability for their acts.

What Is the Purpose of Progressive Discipline?

Instead of firing, the purpose of progressive punishment is to remediate problematic behavior and create a better, more productive employee.

What Is a Typical Progressive Disciplinary Process?

Progressive discipline is a way to deal with problems with an employee’s performance or behavior in a planned way. Its goal is to help managers and supervisors enforce discipline by giving employees a chance to fix problems before punishment gets worse.

Is Progressive Discipline Harassment?

Progressive discipline is still the best way to handle most wrongdoing at work. Employers are told to not only make and use strong policies against harassment in the workplace but also to make and use effective procedures for progressive discipline.

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