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Progressive Discipline

There will be times when an employee violates a policy or standard of conduct that will require immediate termination. However, in most cases, the problems aren't that serious, or at least they don't start out that way.

In many situations, a minor sanction or coaching can be the answer.

But what about the employee who continues to break rules or ignore work policies or continues to have performance problems? While your immediate impulse may be to terminate the employee, there is an alternative that allows you and the employee every chance to salvage the employment relationship before you resort to termination. That alternative is known as progressive discipline.

What is progressive discipline? Progressive discipline is a discipline system where the severity of the penalty increases each time an employee breaks the rules. Typically the progression is from oral warnings to written warnings to suspension and, finally, to termination.

Is progressive discipline realistic for small businesses? There are advantages to using progressive discipline, especially when it's used in conjunction with a set of work rules (that are thoroughly communicated to employees) and an explanation of the disciplinary system.

For very small businesses, progressive discipline may be too time consuming to use, especially if discipline are problems rare. Or, you may decide to use it only for the most common rule infractions, such as unexcused absences or tardiness. Before you adopt a progressive discipline system, there are certain things that you need to understand, including: