Does Your Discipline Process Work (Part 3)?

November 1, 2011 -- Sal Silvester

In Part 1 of this blog series, I wrote about the underlying assumptions that makeup the positive discipline process. Part 2 was focused on overcoming some of the common and costly mistakes leaders make that derail behavioral change.

Today's post is focused on what I call the Discipline Continuum.

Most organizations have a discipline process or policy that escalates discipline through a series of steps. As I mentioned in my previous two posts, they are often wrought with warnings, threats, and ultimatims - none of which do much to build team member commitment.

Instead, I would recommend the following three tiers to the Discipline Continuum that put the choice of change into the employee's hands.

Verbal counseling. This is a formal conversation between the leader and team member about a performance issue or behavioral problem. This is the first step used when feedback conversations do not achieve the desired behavioral change. Or, when a single incident is of sufficient level of seriousness to skip through feedback and right to discipline (e.g., ethics issue, harassment, compliance violations, etc.). During this conversation, the leader and team member agree on clear next steps and gain commitment to change. This verbal conversation is documented in the employee's file.

Written reminder. If the performance issue or behavioral problem persists, we move across the discipline continuum through another formal and fully documented conversation. Notice that there are no warnings or threats. Simply a discussion about the employee's choices, an action plan, and notification that this is the second step in the discipline process. Throughout the conversation the team leader involves the employee, as in all previous steps, to gain their commitment to change.

Decision Day Leave. Instead of issuing a final warning or placing the team member on probation, positive discipline’s final level is a one-day paid disciplinary leave. During this time out of the office, the individual reflects on making a final decision – whether to fully commit to solving the performance
issue, or to leave the organization and find more fulfilling work elsewhere. When the employee returns the following day, he and his supervisor meet to discuss his decision. If the employee decides to stay, he submits a detailed action plan, the manager provides encouragement, they both talk through  specific follow-up steps, and the manager lets the employee know that if change is not created the next step in the process is dismissal.

Everything is completely transparent and designed to help an employee be successful.

How does the Discipline Continuum work in your organization?

Stay tuned for the next post and we'll discuss the specific steps for conducting the positive discipline conversation.

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