Regardless of how well you run your business and the integrity of your workforce, encountering employee misconduct is inevitable. And while disciplining employees isn’t usually pleasant, it’s something that you’re going to face at some point in time. Whether it’s a minor infraction or a major issue, you need to have a strategy in place to handle the situation. Here’s what to do when employees violate workplace policies.
Quickly Address the Problem
When employee misbehavior is first brought to your attention, it’s important to jump right on it as soon as possible. The offense will be fresh in their mind, and there is a better chance of resolving the problem. On the other hand, waiting for an extended period of time tends to be less effective. If you can’t speak with an employee right away, do so as soon as possible.
Arrange a Private Meeting
Find a private area where you can sit down and have a conversation without other employees overhearing it. Ideally, you will bring along another higher up who can serve as a witness. This may be important later on if you need someone to clarify or validate exactly what took place. During the meeting, you will want to clearly state the specific policy that the employee violated. Explain what behavior they were engaging in that is unacceptable, and provide a description of the offense. This should be followed by how this behavior negatively impacts your company.
Make Notes of the Meeting
According to Rutgers University, “it is important to maintain, at a minimum, a log of all discussions of this nature with employees. If the employee seems uncertain of the advice being given, then a confirmation of the discussion(s) in writing is advisable.” You or another superior should write a description of what happened, what was said during the meeting and what the outcome was.
You will want to date and sign the document. Then have the employee read it over and sign and date it as well. If there are any legal problems later on, having a formal document on hand should protect you and your business.
Allow the Employee to Respond
After you’re done explaining the issue, you should give the employee a chance to explain their side of the story. This is the time to get their input and see if there’s any extra information to take into consideration before moving forth.
Explain Future Consequences or Discipline the Employee
At this point, you must decide whether the offense requires a warning or immediate discipline. If the offense is minor, you might just put the employee on probationary status and explain that you expect improved behavior. In this instance, collaborate with the employee to come up with a plan of action so that you won’t have the same problem again. For example, if they were late for work, the employee could agree that they will show up at a specific time going forth. You should also explain what will happen if they repeat the same behavior (e.g. suspension or termination).
If it’s a major or repeat offense, you will typically want to suspend or terminate the employee. The path you choose will ultimately depend on your workplace policies and the severity of the offense.
A Side Note
These steps are intended for misconduct that’s not overtly serious and not grounds for immediate discharge. For more serious offenses like coming to work intoxicated/impaired, intentional harassment and destroying property, there may not be any means of reconciliation, and termination is probably in order.
Disciplining employees can be difficult, but is a necessary part of running any business. By knowing how to respond when employees violate workplace policies, you can effectively resolve the problem and keep things running smoothly.