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mechaniYou have an under-performing or problem employee who doesn’t seem to “get it.” You’ve told him over and over again but he keeps doing what you told him not to do and you don’t understand what the problem is and why he can’t just do his job right in the first place. Does this scenario sound familiar?

It happens all too often. An employee isn’t performing to par and there continues to be problems with the employee, but the manager doesn’t address it. Instead, the manager hopes the problem will go away or they assume that the person knows what they are doing wrong and will correct the situation. Then, they are so fed up with the employee that they decide one day that they just want the employee gone. The manager lets the employee go, the employee files for unemployment and gets awarded the benefit because the employer doesn’t have any documentation to prove that the person should have been fired. It doesn’t have to be like that. There is a better way.

Here are the dos and don’ts of employee discipline to help ease the long-term pain:

1. Do nip problems in the bud and as they happen. Feedback (of any kind) and consequences have more of an impact when immediate and in the moment, but in private. Think of it another way — if you stick your hand on a hot stove, the immediate feedback and consequences are felt with the burn and you know not to do that again.

2. Don’t wait to talk to an employee and address the issue. Whatever discussion you have with them is for nothing because there is a complete disconnect between the action and the feedback at that point.

3. Do be specific as to what the employee did wrong. Explain to them why it was wrong, what they need to fix going forward and the consequences should they not change their behaviors.

4. Don’t assume they know the problem. When people aren’t told the expectations, they will do what they think should be done, which may not be in line with what you want done for your business.

5. Do document verbal discussions and then proceed to written warnings, should the unwanted behaviors continue. This is called progressive discipline. Putting things in writing signifies permanency and when things are written, there is more of an impact on the employee. It’s usually not until it is in written form does it get the attention of the employee.

6. Don’t keep having multiple conversations with the employee without documenting them or proceeding to the next step in progressive discipline. Be sure to document that they understand and acknowledge what you’ve told them, whether it is having them respond through email or signing a disciplinary or coaching form. Unless it is documented, it essentially doesn’t exist for the purposes of ongoing discipline, unemployment or a lawsuit (worst case scenario).

7. Do keep your word and stick to upholding the consequences should the employee’s behavior not improve. If there were no consequences, why would someone change their behavior? People will do what you allow them to do.

8. Don’t give them empty threats and think it will just go away over time. If anything, things will get worse. Disciplining and coaching employees is not something most people like to do, but I can guarantee that issues not resolved as they happen with an employee will cause bigger issues in the end.

9. Do be consistent in how you discipline different employees for similar offenses. Having a verbal conversation with one employee and firing another employee for similar or the same issues can open you up to liability and potential discrimination claims.

10. Don’t use personal attacks or anything that may be considered discriminatory when disciplining employees. Keep the focus on the issues that are job related.

Having a problem employee that goes undisciplined has a much bigger impact on a small business than just an employee not pulling their weight or doing something wrong. A problem employee impacts other employees as well, which impacts business operations as a whole and ultimately the bottom line. Additionally, when other employees see that the manager or business owner isn’t addressing the issue of a problem employee, they lose respect for that manager or owner and will start doing what they want to do because they know there won’t be any consequences. It is difficult for people to stay motivated to do good work for someone they don’t respect.

Don’t drag it out and make it harder on everyone involved. I promise it will be better in the end.

Deanna Arnold, PHR, is the president and owner of Cornelius, N.C.-based Employers Advantage LLC, which provides practical and sound solutions to meet the needs of your business in all aspects of human resources, including but not limited to, recruiting, benefits, employee relations, compliance, performance management, HRIS, workers compensation, safety, facilities/office management, and budgeting. She can be reached by emailing darnold@employersadvantagellc.com or calling 980-422-7953. www.employersadvantagellc.com

Article courtesy of TIRE REVIEW.

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Deanna Arnold
Deanna Arnold, PHR, is the president and owner of Cornelius, N.C.-based Employers Advantage LLC (www.employersadvantagellc.com), which provides practical solutions in all aspects of human resources, including recruiting, benefits, employee relations, compliance, performance management, HRIS, worker’s compensation, safety, facilities/office management and budgeting. She can be reached at darnold@employersadvantagellc.com or by calling 980-422-7953.