In an ideal world, you’d never have to discipline an employee. In the real world, though, it’s important to have a disciplinary policy that’s both clear and consistently enforced. A good disciplinary policy can help protect you and your business, especially if discipline results in terminating an employee. When creating a policy, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Put it in writing! Your policy should always be written down so that you can refer to it when needed, but also so that employees can read it and have a clear understanding of how it works. Equally important is to show the policy to your employees so they have a chance to read and understand it. That way you can avoid problems that happen just because an employee didn’t know your expectations.
- Write your policy with a view towards the process, such as how many warnings you’ll give, who should give them, and how to give them. Don’t try to address specific violations, because you can’t anticipate all of them.
- Be consistent with enforcement. Enforcing the policy with only some of your employees is unfair to all of them. Also, if you only enforce the policy sometimes, employees may not know when they’ve actually done something wrong.
- Document every step in the employee’s personnel file. Write up a summary of any verbal warnings and include a copy of any written ones. This helps you identify if problems continue to occur. It can also serve as evidence to support you if you have to terminate an employee.
A disciplinary policy should give you a road map to addressing employee problems, up to and including termination. But most importantly, a well-written policy will tell your employees what you expect of them and help you avoid problems before they start.