Progressive Discipline | How To Use For Termination

Progressive discipline is a method for rehabilitating a problem employee. Its goal is to “fix” the problem employee. With this method, you give warnings of increasing severity and urgency for poor performance and misconduct. If the employee doesn’t heed the warnings, she uses up all her chances. She then leaves you no choice but to terminate her. In effect, she fires herself.

Here are the steps in progressive discipline:
1) Verbal warning
2) Written warning
3) Final written warning
4) Termination

As you can see, the problem employee gets 3 chances to improve before you terminate her.

You may wonder, “Why do I need to bother with this method? And why am I trying to rehabilitate this employee? I just want to fire the jerk!”

These are good questions. There are 3 reasons you should use progressive discipline.

First, a bad apple is a bad apple. So, it’s unlikely a problem employee will shape up enough to survive progressive discipline. And, if she does, good for you … it’s expensive to recruit productive employees. The more likely outcome is the employee ignores your warnings or only gives a halfhearted attempt to improve. So, you can rightfully terminate. Often, you don’t have to terminate because the pressure forces the employee to resign voluntarily.

Second, using progressive discipline significantly cuts your legal exposure. This is the most important reason for using this method. By giving warnings, you create a bulletproof document trail. Your warnings will “memorialize” the incident, explain how the employee should improve and tell her that her job is in jeopardy. And, you do this 3 times before you fire her. This is why juries see this disciplinary approach as being fair to the employee.

Using this disciplinary method, you destroy the problem employee’s legal case. She can’t argue, “My employer was unfair to me because…
o He never gave me a chance to improve.
o He never told me I had a performance problem.
o He never told me that my job was at risk."

By building a big file on her, she’ll be less likely to sue you. And, you won’t surprise her with her termination.

Third, this approach is just good business. Not only does it lower your chance of a wrongful termination suit, but it sends a message to your good employees you won’t fire them on a whim. They’ll see there’s a safety net, so if they screw up, they get a chance to improve. For the employee, this means increased job security and peace of mind. For you, the employer, it means happier and more productive employees.

The best source for learning how to use this method to fire legally and safely fire a problem employee is Dan Betts’s Employee Termination Guidebook. It’s the most complete manual in the marketplace today on this subject. To find out more, click progressive discipline for terminations.

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