Employee Discipline Best Practices

SPB Blog Employee Discipline

If you’re in business long enough and employee anyone besides yourself, it’s a pretty fair bet that you will have to deal with the issue of employee discipline at some point. Someone will wear something inappropriate to the office, mouth off to a customer, or threaten a co-worker with nasty re-heated fish in the communal microwave. 

What’s the best way to deal with it, though? First and foremost, I have to say…in way seems to have become a running theme in these articles…plan ahead! You really need to have an handbook that defines expectations for employees so they can know when they are running afoul. Here are a few other things to think about…

I Am The Law!

But really, you’re NOT the law. You own a company and you have reasonable rules for how you want your employees to look and behave in the workplace…but local, state, and federal laws will all trump your rules in many cases. Review the laws and get familiar with those that are applicable to you, your business, and your employees.


What does your employee manual say about the issue? You DO have an employee manual, don’t you? There’s a reason we said you need that first. It’s essential for both sides to be clear and informed on the issue of employee discipline. 

Just The Facts, Ma’am!

In many situations there may be multiple sides to a story. You need to gather information on what happened from a variety of perspectives. Even if someone wasn’t directly involved, they may have been a witness to the incident. Record the facts and try to sift out any bias. And make sure you put it all down in writing. Seems like everything in business needs to have thorough and exhaustive documentation…this is no exception.

Follow The Golden Rule!

Whether your rules are golden or just silver, you need to make sure they are clear (handbook…remember?) and consistently applied. Missing out on either one of these is just asking for someone to accuse you of favoritism, sexism, or racism. No business needs that.

Don’t Delay, Act Today!

In investigating incidents and applying discipline, it’s vital to not delay taking action. When you find out about a questionable action, start looking into it as soon as possible. When you complete the investigation, decide on what action you need to take and then do so. Pausing any of these can have the effect of letting the employee think what they did was just fine.

Let The Punishment Fit The Crime!

Not every offense is punishable by termination. And not every questionable action needs just the proverbial “slap on the wrist.” When you set up the employee handbook, make sure to define what consequences go with breaking different rules. If something is a “fire-able” offense, the employee should know about it up front…then they have no excuses if they break the rules.

Nothing More Than Feelings!

When you have to take action, it’s best to keep feelings out of the proceedings. Stick to the facts that you’ve gathered and the specific punishments that are described in the employee handbook. You may view your employees like they are “family,” but as a business owner, you need to make decisions not based on how you “feel” about someone but on what’s right or wrong for your business.

Growth Is Evidence of Life!

If you haven’t terminated the employee, it would be an excellent idea to give them some advice on how to grow through the experience and do their job better in the future. If the employee is no longer with you, it might be a good idea (depending on the specific circumstance, of course) to talk to the other employees and let them know how they can avoid a similar fate. Everyone has a chance to grow professionally through disciplinary actions like this, but as the business owner, it’s on you to start that process.

Need help with Employee Handbooks or Human Resources? Talk to Southern Payroll & Bookkeeping about Gusto today. Call 423-207-2497.

Employee Discipline Best Practices