Progressive Discipline

Jeffrey Alan Love

 

Even when the standards for performance and behavior on the job are clearly communicated, most managers find themselves dealing with a problem employee at some point in their career. Dismissal might seem like the quickest and easiest solution when an employee’s actions disrupt the office. But a disciplinary plan that sets goals for improvement and consequences for failure can protect employees and managers alike.

Progressive discipline is one process for dealing with poor performance or misconduct that features increasingly formal efforts to provide feedback to the employee so that he or she can correct the problem. 

Human resources consultant Susan M. Heathfield stresses “the process of progressive discipline is not intended as a punishment for an employee, but to assist the employee to overcome performance problems and satisfy job expectations.” Progressive discipline is most successful when it allows the employee to become a productive member of the organization, she says. 

In the private sector, the progressive discipline system includes the following steps for managers:

  •  Talk with the employee to ensure he or she understands job requirements and expectations.
  •  Find out whether there are any issues that could be contributing to poor performance. Brainstorm how you can help the employee tackle those issues.
  •  Verbally reprimand the employee— in private—if poor performance continues to be an issue.
  •  Present a written warning to the employee and file it with the appropriate individuals in the human resources or legal department.
  •  Suspend the employee for as many as five days, depending on the severity of the infraction.

The Office of Personnel Management’s Handbook on Dealing With Workplace Violence lays out an example of how progressive discipline can work in federal offices. First, OPM advises managers to discuss potential disciplinary actions with employee relations staff, and the Office of General Counsel if necessary. If an employee’s misconduct does not endanger fellow employees or disrupt the office, then managers should apply progressive discipline before considering official adverse actions. The sequence could start with a reprimand and lead to a warning and then suspension or alternative disciplinary measures as needed. As OPM notes in its guidance, “lesser disciplinary actions involve considerably fewer procedures than the adverse actions listed below.”

Managers who find an official adverse action necessary must be familiar with the attendant laws and regulations. An adverse action can be taken only for conduct that would hamper the agency’s operations. When an adverse action is proposed, the employee is entitled to 30 days’ advanced written notice. A lesser, seven-day notice period is allowed if the agency has “reasonable cause” to believe that the employee has committed a crime and faces imprisonment. 

The written notice must provide reasons for the proposed action. Then the agency must give the employee time to respond and consider the employee’s response. When a final decision is made, the employee must be notified again. If the agency decides to take the proposed action, then the employee must be advised of his or her appeal rights. 

Progressive discipline is win-win for employees, who deserve to be given the chance to rise to expectations, and for managers, who deserve to be protected and supported for firing an employee when it’s warranted. 

Elizabeth Newell covered management, human resources and contracting at Government Executive for three years.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.