Seven Considerations Before Disciplining an Employee

Seven Considerations Before Disciplining an Employee

by Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP, on December 14, 2022
In LandrumHR’s recent Documentation & Discipline webinar, I presented several best practices on the different aspects of those subjects. We discussed the cardinal rules for dealing with employees, manager do’s and don’ts, documentation essentials, discipline steps, and more.

One subject presented in the webinar, which you can watch anytime in its entirety, is the considerations an employer should take before disciplining an employee. Discipline should never be meted out on the fly without taking the proper steps. Give the employee the benefit of the doubt going into the process.

Consider the following points as part of your company’s formal discipline process:

The Facts

You have a moral and legal obligation to find and consider all the facts available. Employees should not be disciplined on hearsay alone.

The Seriousness

Does it violate any established employment laws? Does it impede your business or portray your business in a negative light? The response and discipline need to match the degree of the offense.

Was the Employee Informed?

Was the employee informed ahead of time, either in writing or verbally, that it was a violation? Would a reasonable person have known better? This is another example of where documentation is beneficial.

Was the Employee Previously Disciplined?

Consider whether the employee is a repeat offender of this specific rule or has been disciplined for different issues. This will inform you of the appropriate disciplinary actions to take.

Does it Hamper the Organization’s Mission or Daily Operations?

Violations can range from reducing production to violating your company’s code of ethics or perhaps personal conflicts that don’t extend beyond the involved individuals. This adds context to the discipline process.

Was the Employee Provoked?

While each person is responsible for their conduct, another layer of context is gained by determining whether the individual acted alone, was provoked, or perhaps ordered by a superior to commit the violation.

Here’s one real-world example of how considering these points can be beneficial. We recently had a client that reported one of their employees had clocked a co-worker in and out. The company’s policy clearly warns against this violation, which is a terminating offense, and they were moving forward with doing so in this case. I asked if they had talked to the employee about this violation. They didn’t think that was necessary because they had evidence on video and from the timekeeping software. I encouraged them to still talk with the employee before finalizing the separation. If they make the same decision after the conversation, that’s fine, but it’s important to have all the facts.

The employer ultimately asked the employee about the incident. The individual reported that their supervisor instructed them to clock the co-worker in and out. That piece of new information changed things significantly and revealed where the real problem lay.

Make sure to be your own investigator – with the help of your HR team – and avoid rash judgments. We’re dealing with people’s livelihoods. These employees hopefully have or will contribute to your organization, and you want them to be highly motivated. You don’t want to burst their bubble by making a judgment that’s unfounded.

LandrumHR clients are always encouraged to reach out to their HR Business Partner with any documentation and discipline questions. If you are not a client and would like to learn more about our services, please contact us today.
Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP

Becki has over 25 years of Human Resources experience and holds a business degree with a concentration in HR. She is certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) by the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and a Certified Professional through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-CP). She also holds her SHRM People Analytics Specialty Credential. At LandrumHR, Becki has worked with the staffing, PEO, and consulting divisions of the company. She currently holds the position of Managing Consultant for hrQ, their national Human Capital Consulting firm. Becki is passionate about helping organizations best manage their greatest resource – their people. A teacher at heart, Becki focuses on helping business leaders understand the “why” behind the “what” so they can move forward with confidence in their decisions.

View more blogs by Becki Leonard, PHR, SHRM-CP