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Positive Approaches to Improving Employee Performance through Discipline

For 75 years, American businesses have used a fairly standard procedure for dealing with well-known personnel problems such as absenteeism, poor employee performance, and other misconduct. This approach, commonly referred to as “graduated discipline,” involves a series of progressively more severe sanctions, including reprimands, warnings, and unpaid suspensions, when an employee fails to meet organizational expectations. When problems arise, it is the manager’s responsibility to find a sanction that fits the misconduct.

However, more and more companies are moving away from a penal approach and improving employee performance through corrective measures. They are abandoning the traditional approach that focuses exclusively on Punishment. Instead, they are adopting an accountability approach that requires employees with poor performance, behavior, or attendance to take personal responsibility for their actions.

Discipline and Evaluation

First, it differs from traditional disciplinary systems in that it ignores the vast majority of people who do not ask disciplinary questions. Discipline without Punishment adds a new step to the process: positive contact. In addition to dealing with employee problems when they arise, the directive also states that managers should recognize good employee performance.

Recognition of good performance is no longer the good advice you hear about in management courses. It is now a formal policy requirement as a step in an organization-wide disciplinary process.

It Detects Errors

Supervisors are still responsible for guiding employees and initiating an improvement process before formal disciplinary action is taken. The exceptions are when the magnitude of the behavior requires formal discipline or termination in the case of a first offense.

During the initial phase of disciplinary action, instead of the usual response of an oral reprimand or written warning, two equivalent steps are implemented to improve the staff member’s performance: “Reminder 1” and “Reminder 2. They look similar, but they are more than just semantic tricks.

Instead of reprimanding for bad behavior or a warning about what will happen next, they formally remind you of two important things. First, you remind them of the specific expectations of the organization that initiated the discussion, such as high-quality work, punctuality, etc. Second, you remind them that they are responsible for meeting the organization’s standards – that they must do what they are paid to do correctly.

Last chance

The biggest change from the traditional disciplinary process occurs in the final phase of discipline. When a worker is only one step away from termination, a dramatic gesture is needed to send the message that the end is near: “Do it again, and you’re fired.” A final written warning, a probationary period, or a performance improvement plan, on the other hand, are insufficient to send a strong enough message. That’s why suspension of discipline is the best last step in a corrective action system.

Payroll Deductions Don’t Work

Traditionally, disciplinary suspensions were without pay. The assumption is that by withholding pay, the worker will come to their senses, return to work, and be determined to do everything in their power to keep the job.

However, this theory rarely works in practice: employees suspended without pay for three days rarely come back to understand their mistakes and improve. They usually come back angry, but all the organization has managed to do is create a dissatisfied employees.

There are other problems with using sanctions as the basis for discipline. Many supervisors are often reluctant to impose unpaid disciplinary suspensions on their friends because they are in the difficult position of a supervisor at work and a friend outside of work. They know that their family members will also be affected by pay cuts, which may make them more lenient toward their subordinates and expose them to accusations of favoritism. In addition, unpaid suspensions are not appropriate for laid-off knowledge workers.

Paid Disciplinary Suspensions

The final level of “unpaid disciplinary leave” provides all the benefits of disciplinary suspension as a final level and eliminates its drawbacks. This disciplinary action consists of a one-day work suspension.

On that day, the worker must choose between two options: resolve the issues that led to this final stage of the disciplinary process and commit to fully acceptable performance in all areas of their job in the future, or resign and find more suitable work elsewhere.

Paying workers who miss work on “decision day,” the supervisor’s role changes from adversary to mentor. This is consistent with the values of almost every organization, as it shows that the organization prefers employees to change and return to perfectly acceptable performance. Beyond the financial aspect, this does not impact the family food budget and reduces the likelihood of anger, hostility, and even violence in the workplace.

Agreed-Upon Responsibilities

If a worker decides to stay with the company, promises completely acceptable performance in any area of work (as is the case with almost everyone who is terminated based on a decision), and then falls behind, it is much easier to terminate the worker without feeling guilty.

If a worker challenges their termination in an EEOC appeal or unemployment hearing, the company has given the person a day off and determined whether they are willing to perform the work they were paid for. The worker has not fulfilled their obligations and provides legal protection.

Traditional disciplinary methods allow some problematic employees to improve their behavior while others are forced to quit. However, punitive methods do not produce employees who truly adhere to the organization’s goals, policies, and operating rules. It can punish them and force them to obey, but it cannot get them to commit to improving their employees’ performance by employee monitoring system.



Lily Poole is a Property and Home Insurance officer by profession. She is pretty well experienced in the insurance and accounting field and has an impressive profile in the training and development industry.

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