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Handling corrective discipline correctly

SafetyClicks™ Idea of the Week

Perhaps the single greatest influence on employee satisfaction in the workplace is the relationship that is developed between an employee and his or her immediate supervisor. While most supervisors are generally aware that their actions have an impact on their employees, they sometimes forget how their actions are being perceived as they carry out their daily supervisory duties.

This is particularly concerning when it comes to handling disciplinary situations. Corrective discipline handled incorrectly is likely to result in highly undesirable by-products such as poor attitudes, increased numbers of written grievances, poor union/management relations and even a decline in productivity.

A supervisor should always strive to correct an employee in a manner that is fair, impartial and private that allows the employee an opportunity to explain their actions. Several widely accepted guidelines for correcting employee behavior are listed below.

Guidelines for correcting behavior

  • Review the past work record. Does the behavior reflect a pattern of repeated offenses?
  • Obtain the employee’s own story before taking action.
  • Consider the effect the corrective action may have on the employee and others in the workplace.
  • Understand which policies or procedures may apply to the situation.

Beyond these guidelines, the administration of corrective action should never come as a surprise, as the work rules should be well known by everyone. Corrective action should be timely and come quickly on the heels of the undesirable behavior. The disciplinary action should always be applied consistently to those who violate workplace rules. Once the action has been taken, don’t apologize for it. This tends to minimize the discipline. Finally, corrective action should not be done simply to make an example out of someone to the rest of the work group.

When administering feedback

An important part of the disciplinary process is providing feedback to the employee about the behavior that initiated the corrective action. When providing this feedback the following guidelines should be kept in mind:

  • Focus on the behavior, not the person.
  • Focus the feedback on actual observations, not assumptions or second-hand information.
  • Address the present situation, not the past.

When handled correctly, corrective discipline can become an opportunity to teach and build a relationship based on mutual respect.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA)