Introduction:

Employee discipline should not be seen as a form of punishment, but as an opportunity for growth and development.

If approached with the right mindset and executed correctly, it can be an effective training method that helps improve performance while establishing a safe and honest working environment for all employees.

This checklist will guide you through the entire disciplinary process, from verbal warnings to suspension and ultimately, employment termination (a stage that will ideally never be reached) in a way that ensures both parties are comfortable with how problems are being addressed and progress is being made. 

Let's get started. 

Preparation:

Record employee details

Identify the type of problem

In general, there are two types of problems that warrant disciplinary action; behavioral problems and performance problems. It's important to determine which type you are dealing with before moving forward. 

Gather employee records and other relevant information

The next step in the preparation phase is to gather employee records and any other relevant information you can use to clarify the issues that require disciplinary action. 

For performance-based problems, statistical information is often very helpful. Gather the data that highlights poor performance and enables the employee to better understand what needs to be improved. 

For behavioral problems, gather various examples of behaviors that you and the company in general consider unacceptable, and how often they are occurring. 

Try to gather as much information as possible, making sure that it is all highly relevant and detailed. This will make the process significantly easier and ultimately have a higher chance of success.

Consider additional training

Often times, performance-based problems can be solved without having to take disciplinary action.

Evaluate the situation carefully and determine if the employee's poor performance could be due to a lack of training or development of a certain skill. 

Verbal warning:

Schedule a meeting

Contact the employee, either in person or by sending them an email, to schedule a private meeting.

Below is a template that you can use immediately. 

Clearly describe the performance deficiency

In the meeting, the first thing to do is clearly describe the problem.

Make sure you refer to statistical data gathered prior to the meeting and any other employee records that help convey the need to warrant a verbal warning. 

Use the form field below to record your description. 

Clearly describe the behavioral deficiency

In the meeting, the first step is to clearly describe the problem.

Make sure that you refer to the examples of unacceptable behavior that were gathered prior to the meeting, and any other relevant information from the employee's records such as formal complaints from other employees or any previous warnings that were issued. 

Record your description of the behavioral deficiency using the form field below. 

Reiterate requirements and expectations

Be very clear about what needs to be done in order to resolve the issue. Restate what your requirements and expectations are, along with some guidance on how the employee can ensure they are met. 

If you have documented this information, attach the file below. 

Review the consequences of future occurrences

During the verbal warning, inform the employee that if expectations are not met and the problem persists, you will have to issue a written warning which goes through HR and is a lot more serious. 

Schedule a date to follow-up

Schedule a date to follow-up with the employee and review progress. Ideally, this date should be no longer than 2 weeks after the verbal warning was issued. 

Document the discussion

Once the meeting has ended and the verbal warning has been successfully issued, be sure to formally document the discussion and add the document to the employee's records.

In the case that expectations are not met and further action is necessary, records of previous disciplinary action will be incredibly important. 

Send documentation to the employee

Use the email template below to send the verbal warning document to the employee.

Evaluate if a written warning is necessary

After following up on {{form.Follow-up_date}} and evaluating the employee's progress, determine if expectations have been met and whether or not a written warning will be issued.

Written warning:

When creating a written warning, there are certain components that must be included. They are: 

  • A clear statement of the issue
  • A description of ways to fix the issue
  • Clarification of expectations 
  • Statement of possible consequences of inaction
  • A clear timeline for meeting expectations

Now let's work through each component. 

A written statement is in many ways a more formal and serious version of the verbal warning, therefore the content is very similar. 

State what the issue is

Write a clear statement describing the issue. This should also include details of how the employee failed to meet expectations stated during the verbal warning. 

Clarify expectations moving forward

Clarify for the employee exactly what expectations they must meet to avoid any further disciplinary action and begin performing to the company's standards. 

Expectations stated during the verbal agreement: {{form.Requirements_and_expectations}}

State possible consequences of inaction

If the employee fails to meet expectations, what will the consequences be? Describe each consequence in as much detail as possible. 

Consequences stated during the verbal agreement: {{form.Consequences_of_future_occurences}}

The most common consequence for failing to satisfy a written warning is suspension without pay or termination. 

Provide a clear timeline for meeting expectations

Write up a clear timeline stating when you would like to see certain expectations being met over the next 4 weeks or so. 

Check out the example below to get an idea of how it should look. 

Source: Lucidchart

Consolidate the information into a formal document

Consolidate all of the information below into a formal written warning and attach the file.

Statement of the issue: {{form.Written_warning_-_Statement_of_the_issue}}

Expectations: {{form.Written_warning_-_Expectations_moving_forward}}

Consequences of inaction: {{form.Written_warning_-_Consequences_of_inaction}}

Improvement timeline: {{form.Written_warning_-_Improvement_timeline_(URL)}}

Send a copy to HR for approval

Send a copy of the written warning to the HR department for approval.

They may require you to review the document with them, in which case go through it together and verify that everything is in line with company policy. 

Obtain approval from HR

Before presenting the document to the employee, you must make sure that it has been approved by HR. 

Present the document to the employee

Once the written warning has been approved by HR, present the document to the employee by having them meet you in your office or a private meeting room. 

Sign and date the document

Make sure both you and the employee sign and date the document as recognition of receipt and understanding.

Determine if further disciplinary action is necessary

Following the issuing of the written warning, refer to the improvement timeline to monitor performance and whether or not expectations are being met. 

Depending on the employee's performance, determine if further disciplinary action is necessary. If it is, it will be in the form of suspension. 

Suspension:

Consult the HR department

Suspending an employee is obviously a very serious step to take in the disciplinary process. 

Before beginning the suspension, you must consult the HR department and work closely with them to ensure compliance with company policy. 

Take the time to review all relevant information in the employee's records relating to job performance and details of previous disciplinary action (verbal and written warnings) that the employee failed to satisfy. 

Top tips when suspending employees

Determine terms of the suspension

There are a couple critical aspects of a suspension that need to be determined before asking the employee to leave the office. State them below. 

Assign the employee to develop an improvement plan

As part of the suspension, the employee should be expected to create their own performance improvement plan (PIP).

While a PIP is generally a coaching mechanism created and discussed together with the employee, it will, in this case, be up to the employee to create the document alone during their suspension.

This will be an excellent indicator of how committed they are to improving their performance as it is effectively their last chance to avoid termination.

The PIP should include:

  • The exact performance that they need to improve (with examples) 
  • How they will meet expectations stated in the written warning
  • What results they expect to see in the next 4 weeks
  • Dates to review progress

Although the employee should be expected to create the improvement plan on their own, you may want to help map out a few milestones that the employee is expected to achieve.

If the employee fails or refuses to create an improvement plan, take steps to terminate employment. 

Ask the employee to leave the office

Now that the terms of the suspension have been clarified and the employee in question has been assigned to create a performance improvement plan, ask them to leave the office and begin their suspension period. 

Review the improvement plan upon return

Once the employee has returned to the office, review the improvement plan and monitor their progress over the next few weeks to determine whether or not they will be terminated.

Determine if termination is necessary

Termination:

Schedule a meeting

Use the email template below to schedule a meeting.

Go over all documentation

Gather all the documentation from previous disciplinary measures leading up to the termination. 

Discuss with the employee how they have been given plenty of chances to correct their behavior or improve their performance but have failed to do so. 

  • 1
    Verbal warning
  • 2
    Written warning
  • 3
    Suspension
  • 4
    Performance improvement plan
  • 5
    Other relevant documentation (e.g. formal employee complaints)

Discuss attempts to make change

The employee may feel as though they have done everything they can to satisfy your expectations and avoid termination.

Discuss with them how and why these attempts were not enough and failed to meet the company's expectations. Use all of the disciplinary documentation to support your statements. 

Complete the termination checklist

Move on to the Employment Termination Checklist to continue to process. 

Sources:

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