Ways to Discipline an Employee at the Workplace

Use a disclipinary system to hold employees accountable.
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Sometimes the person responsible for keeping order in the workplace is viewed as the mean girl, and you're probably not racing to claim that title. However, if you are a manager or supervisor, you'll have to step up to the plate to make sure the rules are being followed. The only way to make sure workplace rules are followed is to create a disciplinary system. Keep in mind that your system is only as effective as your ability to enforce it.

First Things First

It's unfair to have a disciplinary plan in place without telling employees how they are expected to behave. That's like putting the cart before the horse. Before executing a disciplinary plan, create an employee rulebook or handbook. The handbook should include a detailed breakdown of your company's expectations. For instance, mention your expectations for attendance, punctuality, usage of company property, production, integrity and language. Have your employees sign a document indicating they have read your rules, understand them, and agree to abide by them, or face disciplinary action.

Verbal Warning

Consider a verbal warning for an employee's first offense. With a verbal warning, you politely notify the employee that her behavior is unacceptable or needs improvement. The warning also indicates to the employee that she needs to get her act together or face harsh consequences. Although the warning is verbal, it is still wise to document it. Documentation proves that the employee has completed the first step of the disciplinary process.

Written Warning

Use a written warning for an employee's second offense. The written warning is more formal. You actually sit down and meet with the employee to offer counseling or coaching. Let her know that her behavior has to improve if she desires to remain an employee. Place a signed and dated written warning document into the employee's personnel file. Consider using a probationary period for written warnings. For instance, if the employee goes six consecutive months with no more violations, the written warning is removed from her record.


You need to give more than warnings. Otherwise employees may not take you seriously. If an employee has another violation, counsel her to let her know she has one more chance to get it right. If she still fails to improve, termination is an option. It's possible that the employee is a great employee who only started experiencing problems after being promoted to a new position. If this is the case, consider offering the employee additional training. If she is still unable to catch on after additional training, demote her back to her old position. Demotion can be viewed as a form of discipline, especially if it results in lesser pay.

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