In human resources, disciplinary actions are a type of personnel action taken by an employer for their misconduct to correct employee behavior or performance.
Disciplinary action can range from a verbal warning to termination of employment. The type of disciplinary action taken will depend on the severity of the misconduct and the company's policy.
What is the Definition of Misconduct?
Misconduct is any behavior not following the company's rules and regulations. Common examples of misconduct include:
Types of Disciplinary Actions
There are three main types of disciplinary actions:
1. Verbal Warnings
Verbal warnings are the most common type of disciplinary action. They are usually given for minor infractions and are meant to warn the employee that their behavior or performance is not up to par.
2. Written Warnings
Written warnings are more serious than verbal warnings and are usually given for more serious offenses. They are a formal way of documenting the employee's infraction and typically include a list of expectations for the employee to improve their behavior or performance.
Termination is typically reserved for employees who have committed serious offenses or have failed to improve their behavior or performance despite repeated warnings.
How are Disciplinary Actions Carried Out?
When an employee is found to have committed misconduct, the first step is usually a verbal warning from their supervisor. If the misconduct is more serious or the employee has been warned before, the next step may be a written warning.
The written warning will outline the misconduct and the consequences of continued misconduct.
If the employee continues to exhibit misconduct, the next step is usually a suspension. Depending on the company's policy, it may be with or without pay.
A suspension is usually the last warning before termination, so the employee must be aware of the seriousness of their misconduct.
Once an employee has been terminated, are usually not eligible for rehire. It is because termination is considered the most severe form of disciplinary action.
The disciplinary action process is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive workplace. It is also vital to ensure that employees are treated fairly and consistently.
Note that every organization is unique with its own cultures, management styles, expectations, risks, and other factors that influence the disciplinary measures it takes.
For example, some organizations will view and treat certain behaviors—such as sexual harassment in the same way as absenteeism, while others may not!
Who Decides Whether or Not to Take Disciplinary Action?
If an employee breaks a company rule, it is generally up to the supervisor to decide whether to take disciplinary action. The supervisor will usually consider the severity of the infraction, the employee's record, and the company's policies.
Factors that can influence the decision to take disciplinary action include the following:
The severity of the infraction: A minor infraction may warrant a verbal warning, while a more serious infraction may warrant a written warning or even termination.
The employee's record: If the employee has a history of breaking the rules, this will likely influence the decision to take disciplinary action.
The company's policies: Some companies have strict policies that dictate when and how disciplinary action should be taken. Others may be more lenient.
Human resources: In some cases, the decision to take disciplinary action may be escalated to human resources. They may be involved in the decision-making process or guide the supervisor.
How Disciplinary Actions Should Be Documented?
Disciplinary actions should be documented in the employee's personnel file and handled consistently and reasonably to avoid legal issues.
It is because disciplinary actions can significantly impact an employee's career, and if they are not well-documented, it can be challenging to prove that the actions were justified.
There are a few things that should be included in any documentation of disciplinary action –
First, there should be a clear description of the committed infraction. It should include what the employee did wrong and how it violated company policy.
Next, the documentation should include the consequences that were given to the employee. It could consist of a written warning or a suspension. It is essential to be clear about the consequences, so the employee knows what to expect.
Finally, the documentation should include the date of the disciplinary action. It is important to track when the action was taken and how long it occurred.
By including all the essential information, it will be easier to show that the actions were taken somewhat and as per company policy.
If you are an employer, you must consult with an HR professional or attorney to ensure that your disciplinary actions are legally defensible.
If you are an employee, you should be aware of your rights and understand the disciplinary process at your workplace. You may have legal recourse if you feel that you have been unfairly disciplined.
Are there any Alternatives to Disciplinary Actions?
One alternative to disciplinary action is to offer counseling or coaching. Counseling can help employees identify the root cause of their rule-breaking behavior and find ways to avoid it. It could be done either in person or via an employee assistance program.
Some companies choose to offer educational opportunities instead of disciplinary action. It could involve sending the employee to a training course or providing information on the rule they broke.
This approach aims to help the employee learn from their mistakes and prevent them from making them again in the future.
Which of these alternatives is best depends on the company culture and the severity of the rule violation. Companies may find that a combination of these approaches is most effective.