What is Progressive Discipline in the Workplace?

By hrlineup | 09.01.2020

Progressive discipline in the workplace is a process taken to deal with job-related conduct that fails to meet the communicated and expected performance standards. The main purpose of this kind of discipline is to help employees understand that a performance problem exists and that there will always be an opportunity for improvement.

Progressive discipline process comprises of several formal efforts that are aimed at providing feedback to an employee so that they can correct any unacceptable behavior in their workplace. The process is meant to attract the employee’s attention so that they can understand that an improvement in their performance is important if they want to stay employed by the organization.

Note that progressive discipline does not exist as a form of punishment for employees but as a way to assist the disciplined employee to overcome any performance problem they might have so as to satisfy their job expectation. The process can be very successful if it is able to assist an individual employee to get effective in their performance as a member of the organization where they work. For this reason, an effective progressive discipline policy is an important tool for any organization and could be used for hourly and non-exempt employees. Exempt and salaried employees, in most cases, are never given a second warning. The only thing they get after the first warning is either a requirement to improve their performance or seek employment elsewhere.

How to create an effective progressive discipline system in your organization

To implement a policy of discipline in the workplace, the first step an organization needs to take is to speak to their employees about performance and what their performance in their job entails. Make sure that they understand the requirements for good performance, and then establish whether there are any problems that could contribute to poor performance. If there are problems, the organization needs to solve them as soon as possible.

After that, the immediate supervisor should be allowed to reprimand any employee for poor performance. If poor performance happens, the employee need to know that termination could come as a consequence at any point during the process of progressive discipline. They however need to know that termination can only occur if the employee is unable to improve even after receiving a couple of warnings.

If no improvement is realized, the supervisor needs to provide a formally written verbal warning and attach it on the employee’s file. If the supervisor believes that the employee could improve their performance, or there is a slight improvement after the process has started, they could continue with the progressive discipline.

From the definition of discipline in the workplace, it should be clear to all employees that there are expected standards in every organization. For an employee to perform satisfactorily, they must work and behave in accordance to those set standards. Progressive discipline in the workplace will allow the employee a chance to improve if they do not perform as per those standards.