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Have you ever wondered why some employees come to work and effectively perform job duties while others seem to be constant problems? Ensuring that supervisors effectively monitor performance and provide employee feedback is critical to ensure employees perform at their optimum best. In many instances, supervisors fail to appropriately address incorrect or unsatisfactory behavior, do not appropriately document the nature of behavior or actions taken to correct the behavior. It's important to remember that every employee has a right to know what is expected, how work should be performed, criteria for evaluation, and have an opportunity to correct errors in performance. 


In many organizations, employees are faced with constant change and transitions that impact monitoring of behavior and effective communication between supervisor and employee. Issues of poor behavior may not be addressed until performance has declined and disciplinary actions are considered. From a legal perspective, it is important to remember both employers and employees have rights. Organizations need to develop appropriate policies that are monitored, enforced, and aligned with state and federal laws. This is a requirement for organizations with 15 or more employees. Consequently, employees have a right to know when their performance needs to be corrected and if they are in jeopardy of disciplinary action.


There are several types of disciplinary processes that an organization can employ; however, there are a few very important factors to consider before adoption of one: 

  • The organization’s foundation, business level strategy, characteristics of their workforce (labor orientation), and HR strategy. 
  • Supervisor should be trained on the importance and application of the disciplinary process.
  • Ensure consistent and equitable application of the disciplinary process.
  • Effective written documentation must be retained to ensure legal compliance.

Listed below are three of the most common types of disciplinary processes used by organizations:

The progressive discipline process is established by the organization and the supervisor controls the outcome of poor job-related behavior. This process requires specific steps to be taken to address poor behavior that results in unsatisfactory job-related performance:


Step 1: Verbal Counseling(s) A verbal counseling is generally the first step of progressive discipline. 

Step 2: Written Warning(s) A written warning is generally the second step of progressive discipline.

Step 3: Suspension and Final Warning

Step 4: Termination of Employment.


These steps do not have to be applied in sequential order; rather, the level of discipline should be align with the severity of the behavior or action. In addition, including a performance improvement plan (PIP) when using the progressive discipline process denotes due diligence in trying to correct the behavior.


The positive discipline process is a non-punitive process and the employee is an active participant in correcting unwanted behavior of actions. This disciplinary process focuses on maintaining the employee’s dignity and self-respect. Emphasis is placed on the employee confronting their job-related problem and taking responsibility for correcting it. There are formal steps included that increase in seriousness if problem is not correct; however, the steps are not given as warnings or reprimands rather reminders of expected performance. The steps included are:


Step 1: Oral Reminder which requires a meeting between employee and supervisor to discuss the problem. The supervisor explains the violation or what the problem is, explains the changes that are required, and emphasizes confidence that the employee will correct the problem with an expectation that no further action will be taken. It is important to note that the supervisor explains that no formal record of the meeting is documented in employee’s file. The goal is that this will be a positive incentive for the necessary improvement required.


Step 2: Written Reminder – If problem is not corrected and continues the supervisor talks to the employee again explaining the seriousness of his/her behavior or actions but not in a punitive manner. Supervisor restates what is required and expected for correction and the employee acknowledges that he/she understand what changes need to be made. The supervisor tells the employee that a written summary of the meeting will be placed in the his/her file. It is important that the employee be asked to sign the documented summary.


Step 3: Decision-Making Leave – At this step the supervisor tells the employee to stay home the following day and use the time to think about a final decision regarding his/her ability to meet the organization’s standards. The supervisor explains that the organization wants to retain him/her as a productive employee, but emphasizes the final decision is their’s to make. The supervisor also stresses that any additional infractions will result in termination. The employee is instructed to report back to the supervisor after the decision-making leave day his/her decision. It is important that the supervisor documents the results of the meeting, have the employee sign it, and place in his/her employee file.


This process demonstrates a good-faith effort of the organization’s interest in keeping the employee, payment for the paid day leave is designed to reduce the employee’s hostility and a negative perspective. It is extremely important to understand that this process is not viable for all organizations – the organization’s foundation and culture must be aligned with the process.


The same day summary (SDS) is a fairly new disciplinary process that is currently in use when addressing unsatisfactory behavior or job-related problems. It provides documentation and communicates the results of conversations between a supervisor and employee immediately after the conversation or meeting occurs. As with the other performance management processes there are guidelines or simple rules required in addressing and communicating poor behavior as well as expected corrections to minimize disciplinary actions.

  1. SDSs are written documentation of communication between employee and supervisor.
  2. SDSs should be short and include only the key takeaways that the supervisor believes is relevant to the problem.
  3. Takeaways should be clear and concise (Keep It Simple)
  4. The key takeaways should include:
    • commitments made detailing who will do what and when
    • critical facts or understandings where individual interpretations could cause problems
    • acknowledgement of favorable or constructive behavior exhibited by employee.
  5. SDSs should be written as soon as possible after the real-time communication or within one day.
  6. The SDS should allow the employee to add anything omitted that is important or to correct errors.
  7. Employee’s signature to ensure mutual understanding of expectations
Jacqueline Cook
Saturday, October 26, 2019