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Progressive Discipline

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Progressive Discipline

Dameian Donnell Barnes

Central Michigan University

In the Military the broad objective of discipline is to motivate employees to conform to acceptable standards of conduct and to prevent prohibited activities. Discipline is a part of the daily responsibility of supervisors and not merely the action taken at times when an employee deviates from accept-able forms of conduct. The supervisor's most effective means of maintaining discipline is through the promotion of cooperation, of sustained good working relationships, and of the self-discipline and responsible performance expected of mature employees. Progressive discipline is a process for dealing with job-related behavior that does not meet expected and communicated performance standards. The primary purpose for progressive discipline is to assist the employee to understand that a performance problem or opportunity for improvement exists. The process features increasingly formal efforts to provide feedback to the employee so he or she can correct the problem. The goal of progressive discipline is to improve employee performance. Whether you are a civilian supervisor or leader of Soldiers, we can always do more to prepare our employee or Soldiers for success and the core to that is progressive discipline.

“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.” Newell, E (2012, May 2). “Progressive Discipline.” 2 May 2012. The most reliable way to protect your organization from wrongful termination charges is to establish and enforce a system of progressive discipline. Having such a structure in place, and making it clear to all supervisors that they are expected to abide by it, is your best defense against a wrongful-dismissal suit. It allows you to ensure that any employee fired because of inferior performance was treated fairly and in accordance with your company's policies. The approach is simple; to solicit a controlled behavioral response from Soldiers who failed to meet standards and teach the how and why along the way. This is designed to be corrective in nature. Get the Soldier back on track before they are on the road out the gate. Here is one of the most underutilized tools in discipline: documentation, documentation, documentation. If something is important enough for you to think or worry about, then it is important enough to document. If you don't, it never happened in the eyes of any adjudicating authority and it will be difficult to hold the member accountable if required later in the process. According to AR 600-100 (Army Leadership), it highlights three simple steps which are necessary in process of progressive discipline. Prevention. Everything you do as a leader helps prevent problems from occurring (walk the walk). Correction. Actions taken to address those who violate standards, but are not deserving of formal punishment (clarifying expectations, letting them know you are disappointed, etc.). Punishment (Rehabilitative tools). Punitive measures against those who repeatedly or grievously violate standards. Progressive discipline starts your first day of supervision and you can't soft shoe your expectations. Look them in the eye and explain consequences for not meeting your expectations. Finally, sit down and think out your initial feedback, periodic feedbacks and mid-term feedbacks. Take every opportunity to mentor. Be what you want your troops to be and be consistent with your efforts. Understand that they are always watching. In the Military, disciplinary actions fall into two categories: informal disciplinary actions (oral admonishments and written warnings) and formal disciplinary actions (letters of reprimand, suspensions, involuntary reductions in grade or pay, and removal). Similarly, employee conduct requiring discipline falls into two categories: behavioral offenses for which progressive discipline aimed at correcting the behavior is appropriate and offenses relating to violation of regulations or laws for which punitive sanctions are required. Disciplinary action should be taken for the purpose of either correcting offending employee behavior and problem situations or for the purpose of imposing punishment necessary to maintain discipline and morale among other employees. Informal disciplinary actions are taken by the supervisor on his/her own initiative in situations of a minor nature involving unacceptable behavior. Oral admonitions and written warnings are normally the first steps in progressive discipline for behavioral offenses and they should be documented. In taking an informal disciplinary action, the supervisor will advise the employee of the specific infraction or breach of conduct and exactly when and where it occurred. The employee should be allowed to explain his or her side of the incident. The supervisor will then advise the employee that continued violations will result in formal disciplinary action. Formal disciplinary actions for Soldiers and civilians consist of written reprimands, suspensions, involuntary reductions in grade or pay and removals. Formal disciplinary actions are initiated by supervisors, with advice and assistance on appropriate penalties and other pertinent concerns from the servicing civilian personnel office (CPO). The CPO staff will assure appropriate oral or written coordination with the Labor Counselor on all formal disciplinary actions. In selecting an appropriate penalty, the deciding official should distinguish between misconduct for which progressive discipline aimed at correcting behavior is warranted and misconduct warranting punitive discipline. In general, for progressive discipline the deciding official should select the least stringent penalty thought necessary to get the employee's attention and motivate him/her to improve behavior. For punitive discipline, the deciding official should select the strongest penalty warranted to preclude repeated acts of misconduct by the employee concerned and to deter such misconduct by others. “ Purpose of any disciplinary action is to rehabilitate the offender, prevent recurrence, and raise the employee's job performance to a satisfactory level. Most employers use progressive discipline, which uses increasingly harsher discipline measures when inappropriate behavior occurs. Naturally, egregious or disruptive behavior may result in suspension or discharge. Barring such behavior, however, progressive discipline is effective.” (Klemm, November-December 1995, p26). |
Klemm, Laurence J. "Using progressive discipline." Credit Union Executive Nov.-Dec. 1995: 26+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 27 Jan. 2013

Newell, Elizabeth. "Progressive Discipline." 2 May 2012. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

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