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For many reasons, having to let an employee go is one of the most difficult and unpleasant tasks we face as employers. Situations leading up to a termination are always stressful on you, the employee, the rest of your staff, and even your guests. While most of us tend to avoid confrontation, a well designed progressive discipline system can actually lessen the chances that you'll have to fire an employee. Maybe if you think of this as a proactive system, you won't avoid situations that require attention.

I like to call my system Progressive Communication. After all, isn't that really the issue? If you don't communicate with an employee about their performance, how can they improve? And should you need to take stronger action later, if you don't document your communications, you're going to lose more than an employee.

The Progressive Communication System

Verbal warning / written friendly reminder
A verbal warning is usually given for a first infraction. Document a verbal warning with a note in the personnel file or with a simple form. We put a positive spin on it by calling it a friendly reminder . Be clear about the reason for the warning, and offer specifics on how the employee can correct or further avoid the problem.

Written disciplinary notice
Our written disciplinary notice is used after verbal warnings or friendly reminders have gone unheeded, or when more drastic action is justified. This written notice provides, in detail, the cause for the disciplinary notice and the action to be taken. The employee should sign all written reprimands, and it should then be placed in their personnel file. If the employee refuses to sign the written notice, be sure to check the "Refused to Sign" box and have a witness initial it if possible.

Suspension and Termination are the final steps of my system. But if consistently apply the first two steps, you will eliminate 90% of those situations.

Take a close look at all instances of employee discipline, suspension or termination in your operation. In a tight labor market, you want to hold onto the employees you have. Is there anything you could do to prevent these situations? Are there changes you can make to avoid the conflicts in the future? Read the Trade Secrets listed below for more ways to hang onto your employees.

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