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Dealing with Misconduct: The Second Track
Misconduct is an entirely different issue from performance problems, so it has its own discipline track. Misconduct is generally considered a much more serious offense than performance shortcomings because it
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indicates a fundamental problem with your employees’ attitudes or ethical beliefs.
The discipline that results from misconduct has more immediate consequences to your employees than does the discipline that results from performance problems. Improving performance may take time— weeks or even months—but when you discipline your employees for misconduct, you put them on notice that their behavior won’t be tolerated. Failure to immediately cure the misconduct can lead quickly to suspension and termination.
The following discipline steps in this second track are listed from least severe to most severe. The particular level of discipline you’ll select depends on the severity of the misconduct and the employee’s work record:
1. Verbal warning: If the misconduct is minor or if this is a first offense, the verbal warning provides the least severe option for putting your employees on notice that their behavior won’t be tolerated. In many cases of misconduct, a verbal warning will be all you need to turn around your employee’s behavior.
2. Writ-ten warning: Not every employee will get the message when you give them a verbal warning, so you may need to move up to the written warning. Written warnings are considered to be more serious than a verbal warning because the warning is documented in your employees’ personnel files. Written warnings are performed by an employee’s immediate supervisor.
3. Reprimand: Repeated or serious misconduct results in a reprimand, which is generally performed in much the same way as a written warning. The difference is that a manager higher up in the organization gives the reprimand instead of the employee’s immediate supervisor. The reprimand makes clear that it is the employee’s last chance to correct his or her behavior before suspension or termination.
Ask Bob and Peter: I was recently transferred back to the store that I managed for four years. Since I came back, there is a new employee who is pulling our team apart. I have tried different approaches to turn her around including being her buddy, training her more—which just gets her angry—and being strict with her. She has become lazy, and she has no focus; how can I motivate her to improve her performance?
Business is built on relationships, and when relationships become tangled, your business can suffer. However, instead of focusing on the personality issues among your employees, focus on their performance. Do your employees have clear goals, and are you measuring their progress toward meeting these goals? If not, you'll see a huge difference once you start doing so. By the way, we think it's always a good idea to ask employees for their opinions—don't confuse being new with not having good ideas. New employees—unfettered by years of corporate conditioning—can often come up with the very best ideas.
4. Suspension: A suspension, or mandatory leave without pay, is used when other, less severe attempts at employee discipline fail to cure serious or repeated misconduct. Employees are also given nondisci-plinary suspensions while they’re being investigated on charges of misconduct, although employees are usually paid while the manager or other company official reviews the case.
5. Termination: When employee misconduct is extreme or repeated, then termination may be your best choice in disciplining a worker. Termination is usually the immediate option for extreme violations of safety rules, theft, gross insubordination, and other serious misconduct. See Chapter 15 for more information about terminating employees.
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THE FIVE STEPS OF DISCIPLINE
There are five steps that should always form the basis of your discipline script. Follow these steps and you can be sure that your employees will clearly understand what the problem is and what they need to do to correct it.
Step 1: Describe the Unacceptable Behavior
Exactly what is your employee doing that is unacceptable? Be specific in your description, and don’t use vague statements such as, “You’ve got a bad attitude,” “You’re not performing as well as your coworkers,” or “Your work habits need improvement.”
When you discipline employees, their unacceptable behaviors must be related directly to specific performance standards that have not been met or to specific policies that have been broken. Specify exactly what the employee did wrong and when the behavior occurred, and be sure to focus your attention on the behavior and not on the individual. Here are some examples:
• “You produced only 25 service reports last month instead of the required standard of 40 per month.”
• “You failed the drug test that you took on Friday.”