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Employee Discipline Basics For Managers

Every manager should know how to properly and effectively discipline a wayward employee. 

Having to write up an employee or talk about dipping performance standards is something good managers really wish they didn’t have to do. But knowing how to do so effectively is a key part of being management.

Before you sit down with the employee, make sure to review the facts of the situation.

To help out new managers (or just those having to discipline an employee for the first time), we’ve put together the following quick primer:

Do your research

Chances are that your employee handbook already addresses how to handle employee disciplinary proceedings. (If it doesn’t, your company should remedy that as soon as possible.) If there are instructions in the handbook, then you should abide by those instructions to the letter and be consistent in their application.

Even when there are instructions in the handbook, check the laws that apply to your company – local, state, and federal. You might have some requirements to meet before you take any action, especially if you are likely to have to terminate the employee.

Document the facts

When an infraction happens, it’s important to respond quickly. However, it’s equally as important to get your facts together and documented before action is taken. Make sure you are gathering facts, not opinions and judgments.

Get your facts together and documented before disciplining an employee.

Determine the penalty

Whichever way you decide to address an employee’s disciplinary action, ensure you are being consistent with the application of the rules and their consequences.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to the types of discipline that can be used for effective employee management. Whatever method you choose, there are usually steps that match the severity of the discipline with the severity of the infraction.

Types of disciplinary action include:

  • Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Suspension
  • Dock in pay
  • Probation
  • Reassignment
  • Demotion
  • Termination

Respond in a timely manner

Should disciplinary action be needed, again, make sure you respond quickly. A delayed response is unfair to all parties involved and can be less impactful.

Before you sit down with the employee, make sure to review the facts of the situation. When discussing the situation, be clear and concise about the facts. Identify the behavior that has caused this situation, discuss a solution to the problem, and then set a reasonable timeline for action.


Wish you had a guide to help you have difficult conversations with employees? Download ours here: “How To Have Difficult Workplace Conversations.”


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